Hmmm…. I suspect the world of food looks rather different if you don’t live in a modern city that’s in some way “progressive.” In reality food delivery isn’t changing the way most people eat at all, and won’t do so for some very obvious reasons.

The first is that there’s no real business here. Delivering low-margin products (food) for a tiny fee isn’t a scaleable sustainable business. Like Uber, WeWork, Tesla, et al it is merely a way to burn huge amounts of Venture dollars before people wake up to the fact there’s no economic viability.

The second is that sustainable food delivery at scale already exists: in India. The dabbawallas shift millions of lunches per day, carrying them from the person’s home (where the wife or mother has prepared it) to the office in a metal container. This is feasible in a country where the daily average income is so tiny that a cyclist delivering hundreds of meals per lunchtime (courtesy of carts pulled behind the bicycle) can just about make a living. But a cyclist carrying a single meal is a non-scalable, non-economic model and there’s no sign that in developed nations any economic model exists. So when the VC dollars stop flowing, the meals will stop coming — just as happened with WebVan.

Thirdly, hardly anyone outside of India is using food delivery services. Let’s take China as an example, as you kindly cite a number from there. 6.4 billion meals delivered! Wow! Sounds very impressive, until we run the numbers.

There are approximately 1.3 billion Chinese, eating three meals per day. That equates to 1.42 x 10¹² meals per year. So that seemingly impressive 6.4 billion meals turns out to be 0.0045% of all meals eaten. Let’s be generous and say that if we add up all the Chinese food delivery companies we get to 20 billion meals. That turns out to be a still-unimpressive 0.014% of total meals consumed.

This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, “changing the way we eat.”

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