How Coronavirus Is Changing Home Food Delivery

As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world and gains more of a foothold in the U.S., it is beginning to affect nearly every aspect of our lives. Not only are there shortages of cleaning and sanitation products as well as pantry staples, but we're also starting to see a huge spike in the use of home food delivery services. 

Just last week, grocery delivery service Instacart reported a surge of growth in orders in the Las Vegas Valley area, amounting to around 10 times their normal amount, while grocery deliveries in the virus-infected states of California, New York, Oregon, and Washington grew 20 times (via MSN). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Instacart reported that frequently-ordered items included canned goods, powdered milk, and yes, hand sanitizer. Amazon has issued a statement that both its Fresh and Prime delivery services are also likely to experience delays due to the increased demand they are starting to experience. Bottled water is in particularly high demand just now, although Bloomberg reveals that this item is unpopular with delivery drivers due to its added weight.

While there haven't yet been reports of coronavirus fears greatly impacting takeout delivery services such as Uber Eats or Grub Hub, that time is undoubtedly coming. Meituan, one of China's biggest food delivery companies, experienced such an upsurge in demand that the resulting driver shortage had them resort to using unmanned vehicles (via Quartz).

Food delivery companies introduce coronavirus-inspired contact-free delivery

One concern that many people have with both grocery and restaurant delivery is the possibility of contracting the virus from the delivery driver — and, unlike China, we don't have much of a structure in place for driverless delivery vehicles. What grocers and restaurants are now offering, however, is something called "no-contact deliveries." While drivers aren't yet resorting to the method this one restaurateur in China did (according to this South China Morning Post video, he is literally throwing food at his customers), they are now delivering food via what amounts to the ding dong ditch method.

According to News 3 (NBC's Las Vegas affiliate), Instacart now offers an option for "leave at my door delivery," but Fresh Direct has taken the option out of their equation and is protecting drivers as well as customers with a policy prohibiting delivery personnel from bringing food into the home. PostMates and Door Dash have both recently released statements about their willingness to provide no-contact delivery, while Uber Eats says they have always allowed customers to request this in the notes field. GrubHub didn't respond to News 3 regarding its contact-free policy, but company CEO Matt Maloney assured Quartz that he is on top of all of the latest developments regarding the spread of the virus and is continuing to adapt his company's food safety policies accordingly.