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Placing the Order

Simon has been a resident of Berlin for the past four years; he frequently uses food delivery services and has tried most of the options available at one time or another. Over the past year he was quarantined alone in his apartment on two separate occasions during which time he was entirely reliant on food delivery to eat.

“So far, I don't think there's been one [service] that has the same amount of positives and the low amount of negatives as it is to just go to a restaurant. And so I think there's not a service out there that does, exactly, or translates the experience of going to a restaurant in quite the same way.”                

Simon (fictitious name) Berlin, Germany

Resident and consumer of delivery services

This interview is important because it reflects some of the thought process behind choosing when and what to order food for delivery. There are digital traces (Ash, et. el, 2018) that can be seen within Simon’s geography as he described how he has become very reliant on these service platforms – he stays at home and orders groceries digitally because it provides him with a sense of safety – but paradoxically, this is only possible because he lives in a dense city where these services are widely available. In other words, the places with the most people provide the best options to eat alone. This shows us that analysing an individual's cultural geography (Anderson, 2021) is also an important aspect of finding the traces left by food delivery platforms.

Simon’s behaviour creates traces of his lived experience in Berlin during corona times, but I believe his experiences are shared by many others. And while the delivery of prepared foods have seen a sharp increase during the pandemic, Simon’s perspective shows that the social aspect of eating is more important than the convenience of eating at home for some people. This leads me to believe that prepared food delivery will most likely drop down to pre-pandemic levels after pandemic restrictions and regulations are rescinded.

Grocery delivery, however, is another matter entirely. Simon did mention that he prefers to use Gorillas over visiting his local grocery store for safety reasons, but he also mentioned that he was already using Amazon Fresh before the pandemic. He had a very high opinion of the convenience of grocery delivery through the Gorillas service and I believe he will continue using it even after the pandemic is over. As opposed to the social element, experienced while dining out, for Simon, going to the grocery store seems to be a more solitary and stressful experience. I believe the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed this new market which will continue to shape the geographies of our cities well into the future.

Read the full interview report, here

“If I were rich, I would probably order all the time but I would give a good tip to the delivery person, every time. If I can spend money on food deliveries, I might as well use extra Euros to share my wealth!”.

Mark (fictitious name) Turin, Italy

former delivery cyclist, now restaurant worker

The interviewee was currently in quarantine for Covid-19. As he had been in self-isolation for the past two weeks, he had to rely on deliveries himself. He explained how he tries to avoid platform services because he has first-hand experience of the struggles and the lack of rights such workers have.

“It is certainly easier for rich people, they can just order all the time. Also, if you scroll the apps, there are so many tasty meals available that you can end up becoming compulsive!”

Interestingly, the interviewee could not help but recognise the appeal of the endless meal choices accessible via delivery apps. At the same time, he highlighted how inequalities spread all over the action of placing an order: being rich opens up more opportunities and gives you the power to demand for a prepared meal (or hundreds) comfortably delivered to your home.

Such reflections bring out the intrinsic power given by money in any food-related relation, and action. Such power dictates the (possible) reward given to delivery workers, who can only make a better/decent living if the people ordering are sensible enough to tip them or, at least, to treat them kindly. At the same time, the very possibility of ordering food opens up only when money is available.

Relating to the ‘more-than-food’ approach, food can therefore be seen as the central node of human lives, becoming way more than nourishment. Food shapes relationships – with people, spaces and places. Relating to the ‘visceral’ approach within the study of food geographies, relations and perceptions of food-related concepts and items can be critically exposed to show the intrinsic influence of power hierarchies to each body/eater’s “shifting, contextualised and indeterminate nature” ways of engaging with food. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge the influence of the digital world in our everyday behaviours and actions (i.e. the “hungry” eyes watching food images online and eventually deciding to surrender and to get, once again, that juicy cheeseburger), especially now that we spend more time on our own in our houses, leaving the public realm empty and prone to be reshaped by a new, digital neoliberalism.

Read the full interview report, here

See also: Food Consumption

The riders’ perspective

Max (fictitious name), working in Berlin, reports that Lieferando communicates week-day evening, week-end all day as peak hours to their riders for scheduling their shifts. His personal experience is a little different: Monday, Friday, Saturday are all-day peaks, other days have peaks in the evening. In his experience there is no noticeable difference according to the weather. But he also reports that it is hard for the individual rider to notice such fluctuations, because the individual workload (in terms of deliveries/hour) does not change. He said that only Lieferando can access and combine data to assess customer preferences and ordering patterns since they track orders as well as their delivery riders. He mentioned that some people order from restaurants very close to them (less than 1km), instead of picking food up themselves, and others have their food delivered through the entire city, which can result in distances up to 10km/order for  the individual rider. Kate works part-time in Copenhagen and chooses her shifts according to peak-hours between 5-9pm so she is always busy. Yet, in comparison to Max she said she did notice deliveries dropping when the weather was warm and when the restaurants opened again after the lockdown.

Delivery drivers themselves do not necessarily notice when there is a peak of deliveries, since their personal workflow does not change much. They can only guess from the number of other drivers they encounter during their shift and other circumstances influencing the behaviour of customers. The specific data always stays with the platform. As for the current situation, in Germany, the number of people ordering food online increased from 33 to 44 million customers during the lockdown, and Lieferando reported that the total number of orders rose from 34 to 122 million orders between 2019 and 2020 in Germany.

Read the full interview report, here

See also: The Ride

References

Anderson, J. (2021). Understanding Cultural Geography. Routledge.

Ash, J., Kitchin, R., & Leszczynski, A. (2018). Digital turn, digital geographies? Progress in Human Geography, 42(1), 25–43. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132516664800

Baeten, G. (2017). Neoliberal Planning. In M. Gunder, A. Madanipour, & V. Watson (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Planning Theory. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315696072

Goodman, M. K. (2016). Food geographies I. Progress in Human Geography, 40(2), 257–266. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132515570192

Spence, C., Okajima, K., Cheok, A. D., Petit, O., & Michel, C. (2016). Eating with our eyes: From visual hunger to digital satiation. Brain and Cognition, 110, 53–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2015.08.006