Florida food delivery business surges, but restaurants still taking a big financial hit

by | Apr 2, 2020

With tens of millions of Floridians hungry for restaurant fare both before and after Governor Ron DeSantis’ stay-at-home order, local eateries are hard at work prepping and delivering food across the state.

Local businesses that use their own delivery services or use other companies to assist in deliveries are seeing a massive surge in business now that people are working remotely or are just seeking a change of pace from the normal fare at home.

From delivering bags of coffee to full meals, delivery in Tallahassee is still in full swing and businesses are getting creative in how they are taking orders.

Many restaurants and food service businesses are offering steep discounts to attract customers. Dominoes recently offered up 50% off any size pizza, while a local coffee shop, RedEye, is offering a $6 coffee-and-muffin drive-through from 7 a.m. to mid-morning at its Midtown location, according to its Facebook page.

According to data from Google, internet searches for restaurants used to easily beat searches for delivery. Now, the two search terms have traded places, underscoring the fact that millions of people are stuck in their homes but still eager for restaurant fare:

Florida leads the nation in searches for the term “restaurant.” But looking at how that search term fared over the past year makes it easier to see how our economy will be impacted:

 

Instacart, a grocery delivery service, is seeing a surge in demand for their platform nationally: for the month of March, its sales growth rate is up by a factor of 10 compared to growth rates in January and February. In California, Washington, Oregon and New York it’s grown by a factor of 20. According to BizJournals:

DoorDash declined through a spokesperson to say whether sales this month have been affected. Other food delivery companies for restaurants have declined to reveal how sales figures this month have been impacted this month to various media outlets. 

However, the fact that some of them — Postmates, DoorDash and Instacart — have recently unveiled drop-off delivery options, borne from customer desires to minimize physical contact, indicate business is adjusting to conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. An Instacart representative told me that their company has seen a surge in demand for that particular option over the last week. 

Customers have long been able to request similar services with other platforms such as Grubhub Inc. and Uber Eats by leaving couriers a digital note when placing an order. 

“We’ve been doing contactless delivery for three years,” Pradeep Elankumaran, CEO of San Francisco-based grocery delivery startup Farmstead.

Postmates announced that it would cover its couriers’ costs for medical check-ups regardless of if the courier had been diagnosed or quarantined, and will waive commission fees for small businesses to use the platform in the Bay Area. DoorDash said it would also soon roll out an assistance program for its couriers and those from Caviar, which DoorDash acquired last year, who have been quarantined. 

Tourism and restaurant advocates have applauded DeSantis in recent weeks for his measured approach in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic that Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) described as a “historic emergency.”

“Our industry is truly made up of the very best people,” said Dover, in a recent press release. “Despite being significantly impacted themselves by the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurateurs across Florida are stepping up to fill critical needs for food.

With DeSantis’s stay-at-home order taking effect later today, we can expect to see an even more pronounced shift in the way Floridians get the food and groceries in the coming weeks.

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