Are you still cooking? – Eating in the delivery economy

Smartphone replaces spatula: "Prepared food" is booming. We want to get our food quickly and easily. Delivery and similar distribution still cost considerably more than home-cooked food. But that will change soon, writes researcher Christine Schäfer in a GDI study.

This text is based on an extract from the "European Food Trends Report" published in 2019, which can be downloaded on the GDI website.

If you are hungry today, there are many ways of getting your next meal. Most consumers choose their distribution channel according to four main criteria: convenience (c), price (p), time (t), and quality (q). These four criteria are weighted differently, according to the latest "European Food Trends Report"((Link)) of the GDI:

Dine-In (cptQ): Here the quality of the food is the most important. You want to enjoy good food in a pleasant atmosphere with good service. Price, time and convenience are given less attention.

Take-Away (Cptq): The focus is convenience. For example, you are busy and want to satisfy your hunger in the easiest way possible.

Delivery (cpTq): There are time constraints; for example, if there is no time at the office to go to lunch, or you get home tired and hungry but the fridge is empty--delivery is often the quickest way to get your meal.

Cook-At-Home (cPtq): If the focus is on price, cooking for yourself at home is the cheapest source of food.

Meal-Kit Delivery (cptq): Meal kit deliveries, i.e. boxes with pre-portioned food delivered to your home, are a compromise. These kits are more expensive than a meal you cook from scratch, but cooking goes faster because the ingredients have already been portioned, and it is still cheaper than delivery or a visit to a restaurant.

Distribution EFTR

The Cook-At-Home concept is becoming increasingly unpopular despite its appeal in terms of price. This is mainly due to our lifestyle, GDI researcher Christine Schäfer recently stated in an interview with "20 Minuten". "We travel a lot and have little time for shopping or cooking," says Schäfer. In addition, more and more people in Switzerland are living in single households. Many people find it difficult to cook for themselves, explains the researcher.

The fact that the prepared meals business is booming has been proven by data in the USA for some time. As early as 2016, Americans already spent more money on "prepared food" (restaurants, delivery and take-away) than on groceries. And the trend is rising. According to a Research Report, UBS expects annual revenue growth for worldwide delivery services of almost 20 percent by 2030.

The trend is also evident in Switzerland: at the beginning of the month, for example, eat.ch, the market leader among Swiss delivery platforms, presented figures for the first time. In January 2020 alone, more than 500,000 meals were ordered through the platform–twice as many as in January 2019.

This development could increase dramatically in the next few years. This is due to falling unit costs for preparation in central kitchens and delivery through automated logistics (drones, self-propelled cars, delivery robots). An example of such central kitchens are dark kitchens. These are restaurant kitchens that do not produce for people in the taproom, but only cook menus intended for delivery. In the long term, the price of a delivered dish could thus be equal to the cost of a home-cooked meal.