The World Health Organization announced that that the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 is officially a pandemic. That scary news marks the first official pandemic since the 2009 Swine Flu (H1N1). The response from the delivery industry has been swift and many key best practices are emerging to keep things clean and slow the spread of the virus.
In China, where the virus emerged, there has been an incredible response to the disease from city-wide quarantines to shutting down complete industries. In the hardest hit areas, restaurants are sending out delivery drivers with ID cards that show their name, the restaurant name and their body temperature along with the date and time it was taken to show the driver is healthy. Other restaurant operators are putting the entire staff’s information on a card. Some restaurants have even begun testing customers and delivery drivers at the door, if they have a fever, they don’t come in at all.
Delivery customers in Beijing and Shanghai have another option, a paper shield that they can use to dine in while at the office. In essence, the shield created by ecommerce and delivery giant Meituan keeps coworkers from coughing on your food. The company is testing the shield with eight restaurant companies, according to CNBC. It is also looking to patent the concept.
The biggest impact on delivery is the widespread adoption of “contactless” delivery where the driver simply leaves the order at the customer’s door, sometimes with a shield or with staff temperature cards. Yum! Brands (namely KFC and Pizza Hut) made interaction-free delivery the rule. Delivery workers make the delivery, then stand at least 10 feet away to watch the customer pick up the order, according to Business Insider.
That is one of the best, surefire ways to ensure “social distance” amid the outbreak. And the CDC advises everybody stay at least six feet away, the distance bodily fluids typically travel. The contactless delivery is one practice that has already arrived in the United States.
Jimmy John’s put out a statement encouraging customers to note if they would like their order left outside in the ordering process. Postmates made it an option in the ordering process, the first of the U.S.-based delivery services to do so. It outlined the process in a short blog post, but in essence, customers just choose the non-contact option and the driver leaves their order at the door. DoorDash also issued a statement saying such “enhanced drop-off options” would be coming soon.
Sick leave is also a growing conversation among the delivery giants as well. Instacart, Uber and DoorDash have all created funds dedicated to supporting workers who catch the virus. An unprecedented benefit for the industry made up of gig workers.
Grubhub created a page in its learning center for operating amid COVID-19. The first item was a reminder to drivers not to snag any fries:
Remember–never touch a customer’s food with bare hands and be extra aware of following proper hygiene procedures when in restaurants. For customer confidence, we recommend tying or sealing delivery and to-go orders.
The company also got a nod from Oppenheimer analyst Jason Helfstein.
“Given more people working from home and the potential to shy away from crowded restaurants, food delivery companies should benefit from an uptick in order frequency, assuming there are no city-wide quarantines (like those enacted in China),” Helfstein wrote in a research report upgrading the company.
Still, the Grubhub stock was caught up in the rest of the disastrous market declines.
The pandemic may eventually have a silver lining for other delivery companies. In New York City’s Chinatown, where foot traffic has fallen by 50 percent, according to Eater, restaurants are getting much more serious about delivery options, signing up with new platforms and even recording cooking operations to ensure that everyone in the restaurant is healthy and following proper cleanliness procedures. One restaurant, the famous hot pot spot Haidilao, is even sending out the full restaurant experience. Customers ordering via the restaurant app can order the hotpot, a portable stove and butane fuel to get their hotpot fix while maintaining social distance. If traffic falls like that for the restaurant industry broadly, school and work is cancelled, and restaurants expand the delivery experience, there could be a surge of new delivery customers. But time will tell as customers still have to eat all the food they panic bought.