The Pandemic’s Impact on Food Delivery Service

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When the coronavirus pandemic triggered lockdowns around the nation, its impact on formal employment was intense. Formal unemployment figures reached 14%, pushing millions of Americans into unexpected situations. Many refused to take their job loss lying down. Despite the difficulty of finding a new job in the middle of the pandemic, one sector of the economy really came through for people. That sector is the gig economy, defined by people who take jobs on a flexible basis, setting their own hours as they do so. Millions of gig workers exist in the US, and together, they make up almost 6% of the American GDP.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous example of a gig worker is a food delivery driver. The pandemic was uniquely kind to the food delivery business. Lockdowns placed severe restrictions on travel for most Americans. Concerns about the outbreak kept people in their homes, leaving few willing to venture into restaurants for their own sake. Restaurants, in turn, limited capacity in their buildings or shut down dine-in entirely. The only way most people were getting non-grocery food was takeout. Thousands of people all over the country delivered food to Americans, risking coronavirus exposure so their customers would not have to. As a reward, these (often) formerly unemployed persons were able to make almost $50,000 a year driving full time.

While not a glamorous wage, $50,000 a year is well above what minimum wage workers make. While the pandemic was an unanticipated boon to services like UberEats and DoorDash, the gains these companies made are expected to stick around after the pandemic ends. The pandemic model of eating in is expected to stick around, especially among certain segments of the population. By 2025, the delivery gig vertical is expected to reach a total value of $200 billion. At this time, it is growing at an average rate of 10.3% each year, far above the national economy’s growth levels. Restaurants and delivery services may need to work out the kinks in their relationship, but both sides should expect to coexist for many more years.

More broadly, analysts expect freelance to play an enormous role in the post-pandemic recovery. From delivery to babysitting to bartending, gig workers perform important services in the US economic system. The flexibility and lower hours gig workers enjoy are growing in popularity. Another important aspect of gig work across types is the relative lack of degree barriers present in the system. High school grads compete fairly alongside those with the means to earn a higher degree. Gig jobs could be the answer to some of the inequities in the American system.

The pandemic did not create a food delivery service. It didn’t start the concept of gig work. All the coronavirus did in this market was accelerate pre-existing trends. As Branden Beneschott, co-founder and COO of Toptal, says, “a lot of really great people are increasingly looking for flexibility in their work, and a lot of them are finding it via the gig economy.”

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