Food deliveries in Mass. skyrocket, and negative impacts could be coming


Food delivery using services like Grubhub and DoorDash may have doubled during the pandemic.

Jose Mendoza prepares takeout orders at Maria’s Taqueria on Tremont Street in 2021. The eatery served customers who ordered from various restaurant names on food delivery apps such as Thank U, Mex, Taco Taco Burrito Burrito, or Burrito Clasico. Josh Reynolds/Boston Globe

The number of food deliveries facilitated by app-based companies such as DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub may have doubled in Massachusetts since the pandemic began, mirroring national trends.

Findings are detailed in a recent report from the Metropolitan Planning Council. Researchers are now pushing to further explore food delivery data and its impact on climate change, traffic congestion, and the restaurant industry.

Researchers estimate the number of third-party food deliveries in Massachusetts has surged from about 45 million in 2019 to about 60 million in 2020 and more than 100 million in 2021. . Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

In Massachusetts, researchers found that food delivery could have a bigger impact than ride-hailing. Both contribute to road congestion, idling and associated emissions, and increase competition for parking leading to dangerous and illegal practices such as double parking in bus and bike lanes.

But food delivery drivers can spend a lot of time looking for parking or parking illegally. You may also spend more time waiting in your car waiting for your next mission. Besides, reports say most food deliveries are within 1-5 miles of him. A shift to more sustainable delivery methods such as bicycles and electric mopeds can therefore be important.

Nationwide, the number of users of food delivery apps nearly doubled in five years, rising from 66 million in 2015 to 111 million in 2020, according to the report. According to the report, a survey conducted last year found that 6.5% of his adult consumers in the U.S. order delivery on food apps every day, and 42% make her deliveries at least once a month. I was.

Even before the pandemic hit, Boston was one of the top food delivery areas in the country. Her per capita spending on food delivery in 2019 ranked him third in the country. Pre-pandemic residents averaged more than $500 a year on restaurant deliveries.

Further complicating matters is the proliferation of ghost kitchens and micro-fulfillment centers (MFCs). A ghost kitchen, as defined in the report, is a commercial establishment that houses one or more of his restaurant operators who prepare food for takeout or delivery exclusively for online orders. MFCs are stores that store goods for order fulfillment and delivery, but are often closed to the public for walk-up retail, according to reports.

Researchers agree that ghost kitchens and MFC may encourage customers to place smaller orders more often. Also, such facilities do not help maintain traffic in commercial areas, which can dampen the vitality of the area and impede economic vitality.

“Ghost kitchens and MFCs are likely to contribute to the lack of vitality and social energy in streets, increase traffic congestion, and cause collisions with pedestrians on boulevards and commercial districts, so local governments should actively consider its trade-offs,” the authors of the report wrote.

The workers who run the entire food delivery system can struggle to make ends meet in one of the country’s most expensive cities. Most app-based food delivery companies view their drivers as independent contractors, according to the report. Drivers are more likely to be non-white, young, immigrant and low-income.

“As independent contractors, whether they deliver by car or by other means, they face complex rules and options for liability insurance,” the agency wrote. “These employees, often referred to as gig workers, consider the money they make from these jobs to be essential or important to meet their basic needs, but they are unable to cover costs such as transportation and insurance. Even after that, many people are making less than $16 an hour.”

MAPC provided a long list of recommendations for legislators, state regulators, and local government officials. Here are their recommendations:

  • Require food delivery platforms to report data to the state, including data on exact travel origins, destinations, time spent at the curb, and time of day.
  • A rating of trips by food delivery drivers “designed to encourage more sustainable travel options that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have less negative impact on curb access and safety.”
  • Ensure delivery workers are fairly compensated and perform their duties in a safe working environment.
  • Require companies to provide insurance and safety training to drivers.
  • Expand access to e-bikes and electric vehicles for delivery drivers.
  • Implement a “curb management strategy” to designate space for delivery vehicles, assess loading requirements, and adjust zoning as needed.

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