“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food,” the late celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme once said. But these days, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your living room, as more and more restaurants offer take-out options to cash in on the growing market for fine dining at home.
The demand for home deliveries of ready-to-eat food grew 10 times faster than for dining out last year, according to figures released on Thursday, and food delivery apps specialising in restaurant-quality meals have seen a huge jump in popularity.
According to analysts NPD Group, the delivery sector rose almost 10% to 599m visits in the UK last year, while total visits to restaurants and other dining venues rose by just 1%. The delivery channel was worth £3.6bn last year, a 6% increase on 2015 and 50% more than in 2008.
NPD noted that even pubs were part of the home-delivery revolution by partnering with brands such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, Hungry House and UberEats. While British pubs only accounted for 4% of the delivery market, they increased their delivery visits by 59% over the previous year.
Deliveroo, which was founded by William Shu and Greg Orlowski in 2013 and now operates in 120 cities in 12 countries, said its orders grew by 650% in 2016. This included 20% more lunch orders, 20% more deliveries on a Monday, 10% more deliveries on Monday to Wednesday, and a 34% increase in people ordering healthy dishes, suggesting restaurant-style deliveries were seen less and less as an indulgent weekend treat.
The company is partnering with new restaurants every week and employs more than 1,000 people. Popular chains that have joined Deliveroo in the last 12 months include Five Guys, Cafe Rouge, Franco Manca, Ottolenghi, Farmacy, Sticks’n’Sushi and Pizza Pilgrims.
The latter’s management say they joined Deliveroo to try new technology and make customers happier. “For some people pizza is the ultimate takeaway, while others see it as a casual dining out option, so working with Deliveroo just allowed us to please as many people as possible,” said Michael Dench, the chain’s operations director.
One restaurant group, London rotisserie Clockjack, opened a delivery-only kitchen last year to cater solely for Deliveroo orders.
The NPD study found the average bill for delivered food was just £1 lower than for a meal eaten on the premises. However, the difference was bigger for some operators such as local Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Italian or Mexican restaurants at £12 for a meal on the premises versus £6.90 for delivery.
Cyril Lavenant, NPD’s UK food service director, said: “Ordering ready-to-eat food for delivery via an app or by phone is growing so fast that eating in is becoming the new eating out. It goes beyond getting delivery of conventional takeaway food because full-service restaurants are offering delivery too.”
A spokesman for Deliveroo said it was not replacing the dine-in experience, rather complementing it by bringing a new breadth of choice to the delivery market. “We work with thousands of restaurants that traditionally did not offer food delivery, creating £200m in added revenue for the restaurant industry in 2016,” he said.
But it’s not all good news. Cancer Research UK has warned of the risks of weight gain and obesity linked to the consumption of fast food and ready meals, which tend to have a high calorie content and higher levels of fat and sugar.
Figures released on Friday by the charity show that at least 79m ready meals and 22m fast-food and takeaway meals are eaten weekly by adults in the UK. Young adults aged 18-24 are more likely to rely on convenience meals, and are seven times more likely to indulge in fast food and takeaways at least once a week compared with the over-65s.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said the figures showed that “grab and go” foods and a growing appetite for takeaways and ready meals were helping to propel people towards an epidemic of larger waistlines.
“The whole food industry needs to step up and commit to working with government to cut the amount of fat and sugar in our food. This would make it that bit easier for all of us to become healthier and reduce our cancer risks,” she said.
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