The insane $43 billion system that gets food delivered to your door

Delivery is the hottest thing in the restaurant business right now — but as many restaurants are finding, the trouble is keeping it cold. Or crisp, in the case of french fries. Or warm, in the case of pho.

The temperature in D.C.’s Columbia Heights is pushing 100 degrees as Armaye Ejigu swaddles space blankets around two precious scoops of Baskin-Robbins ice cream.

Shortly after 11 on a recent Thursday morning, a woman ordered the frozen treat to her house in downtown D.C. And now Ejigu, a driver for the third-party food delivery firm DoorDash, has fleeting minutes to move the ice cream from the Baskin-Robbins’s counter to his car to her door -- all in record-setting summer heat.

“It’s not hot food, so it’s a little more challenging,” Ejigu said, adding that his job becomes much more difficult when he can’t find parking in the area.

Delivery is the hottest thing in the restaurant business right now -- but as many restaurants are finding, the trouble is keeping it cold. Or crisp, in the case of french fries. Or warm, in the case of pho.

Eager to join a booming food- and restaurant-delivery market, dozens of third-party services have sprung up to address those logistical challenges. Food delivery is already a $43 billion business -- and will be worth $76 billion by 2022, according to an analysis by Cowen and Co., an investment banking firm.

Companies such as DoorDash, GrubHub and Caviar are now delivering everything from pepperoni pizza to duck confit. Aside from Baskin-Robbins, which has recently launched delivery from 600 stores in 22 cities, brick-and-mortar chains McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, Red Robin, Cheesecake Factory, Outback Steakhouse and Buffalo Wild Wings have all in the past year partnered with third-party services to launch or expand delivery.

These services don’t merely provide drivers such as Ejigu: They also develop the insulation in his red, corporate-branded cooler bag and the algorithms that determine he’s the fastest driver for a job.

Read more at the Washington Post →