What would you like to have for dinner tonight? Sushi? Pizza? A juicy cheeseburger?
These days you just have to make up your mind - and that’s it. And maybe check with your family if they agree. While that may be challenging enough at times, it’s nowhere near as difficult as preparing everything yourself.
It’s hard to imagine that food delivery was not this common until just a few years ago. Until a few decades ago, it wasn’t available at all… or was it? Have you ever wondered when and how the first food delivery took place in history?
The facts may be more surprising than you think.
A trip through the recorded history of food delivery shows us how we went from growing the ingredients and cooking food ourselves to ordering even the most basic things to our doorsteps; such as coffee. As humankind we adapt to convenience very easily and push the limits to see how far we can take things. With the help of technology and imagination, that is a lot.
People started off placing orders in-person before moving on to phone calls, web sites, tweets and Instagram posts. Delivery began by car and moved on to bikes, motorcycles, robots and drones… And the delivered goods? While pizza has always been a popular option, these days there are basically no limits to what you can order; including special diet food for people who follow a vegan or keto diet. Meal kits may even include videos from famous chefs!
What do you think the first delivery was? If your answer is pizza, you are right. Though maybe not about the time and the brand…
The first recorded food delivery is believed to have taken place in Naples, Italy in 1889. King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy were in Naples when they wanted to try the food of the people: the delicious pizzas of the famous pizza maker Rafaele Esposito.
Legend has it that Esposito served three pizzas to the royal family who had grown tired of the French cuisine as was accustomed by European royalty. The queen loved all three pizzas, and especially adored one in particular; pizza alla mozzarella, with mozzarella cheese, tomato and fresh basil leaves (which make the colors of the Italian flag). Esposito named this pizza after the queen herself, calling it Pizza Margherita.
Some say that Esposito himself was summoned to the palace to prepare and bake the pizzas right there. Talk about pizzas fresh from the oven!
Towards the end of the 19th century, while still under British rule, India saw a rise in workforce in crowded metropolitan cities, which paved the way for the development of a meal delivery system to solve the problems of these busy workers. Delivery men called Dabbawalas (literally translated as "one who carries a box") would bring hot lunches from homes and restaurants to the workplaces of those who would require their services. Dabbawalas would commonly use bicycles, and sometimes railway trains. These lunches would arrive in their own containers and the Dabbawalas would also have to come back to collect the empty dishes in the afternoon.
Since 1890, Dabbawalas have been transporting lunchboxes through Mumbai, which is now the fourth most populous city in the world. Their method for delivery is conducted in a highly effective and ecofriendly manner, with almost no mistakes at all. Keep in mind that they still don’t use any software or cell phones to run the operation. This system is so effective that Dabbawalas are still in high demand. They are considered to be a “symbol of gritty resilience” according to the Harvard Business Review, as a result of their hard work and ethics, working through challenging conditions.
The success of their structure and system has inspired many modern global companies. There are numerous studies on the thriving business of Dabbawalas. Business leaders are known to visit Mumbai to learn more from them, and working Dabbawalas are known to give speeches and answer questions at universities for business management classes.
When you think about food delivery, white paper containers and chopsticks are an inseparable part of the image and it all started with an innovative restaurateur in LA in 1922, Kin-Chu Cafe. The cafe was bold enough to run ads claiming to be "the only place on the West Coast making and delivering real Chinese dishes". Now it’s hard to imagine that there was only one Chinese food delivery place available.
If you think you are addicted to TV now, think again… now we at least have the option to watch what we want, when we want it. In the 1950’s, when the TV was invented, people stopped going out to restaurants and stayed in to watch TV! Seeing that their beloved patrons were taken hostage by these new inventions, restaurant owners knew they had to take some action - and fast. (Similar to how restaurants are adapting to the COVID conditionsnow).
This sped up the takeout and delivery concept for restaurants. Dine-in only restaurants added take-home and delivery options to meet the new needs. They also began advertising on television and broadcasting their menus to remind customers of their delicious food.
More convenience? Yes, please!
How do you make sure you are heard among the noise when everyone begins offering takeout and delivery services? By using one word: free.
Iconic Casa D’Amore from Los Angeles began offering free delivery on any order over $2.50 in 1952. Back then their medium combo pizza was just $2.25. It was a smart idea to get people to order - and increase the value of the order as well! After all, who wouldn’t want to have more pizza AND free delivery? This was perhaps the biggest move for pizza delivery until Domino’s promised delivery in under 30 minutes; the phones didn’t stop ringing for a very long time!
Pizza Hut launched PizzaNet in the 1990’s. This was a historical moment because back then this was still one of the very first websites on the internet.
Could you guess what the first ever online pizza order was?
A large pepperoni with mushrooms and extra cheese.
The next known milestone was the launch of waiter.com by WorldWideWaiter in 1995. They delivered food from 60 different restaurants, making them the first online food delivery service.
#EasyOrder with a Tweet
Once online orders began rolling in, it was a whole new era. Restaurants were building websites, launching their own smart phone delivery applications, creating entertaining and viral ads to raise awareness and get more orders. It was then that Domino’s enabled users to order their favorite pizzas from Domino’s either by tweeting #EasyOrder or by simply using the pizza emoji.
This move was crucial in adapting to the lifestyles of the customers. Domino’s was even able to integrate the fun and simple emojis into their technology. The system recognized the pizza emoji and initiated the Easy Order; streamlining the ordering process down to seconds. Not to mention all the free publicity across Twitter and its users!
Nowadays we can have almost anything delivered to our doorstep within minutes – with the touch of a button alone. These deliveries cater to those with food allergies, those who follow a gluten-free diet, keto meal plan, paleo diet, you name it. Most restaurants and food delivery companies are working hard to diversify their services, create cost effective ways to deliver food and delight their customers in surprising ways. As an example, Grubhub is working on integrating food delivery options to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) so drivers can pre-order and pre-pay their favorite meals and have them delivered to their cars as they are driving by.
In the near future be prepared to have your food delivered by drones or robots as companies are already testing these delivery options. In fact; Yandex has already began using robots for food delivery in central Moscow. And if all goes according to plan, you will begin seeing food delivery robots in Dubai in late 2021.
As a restaurant owner now is the time to decide if you want to be named among the successful adapters to technology and the evolving food industry. The stories of restaurant owners we mentioned in this article prove that those who recognize changes and take actions early on are rewarded with more orders. If you are interested in embarking on the next generation of food delivery...
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