Amid widespread fears over COVID-19, delivery operators such as DoorDash and Postmates are taking extra measures to protect the health and safety of the delivery ecosystem, which involves food and package handling stretching from restaurants to gig drivers to consumers.
Postmates has introduced a non-contact delivery option on its app for customers who prefer restaurant or merchant deliveries to be left at the door. Drivers are alerted to the preference at the time of delivery.
“We're the first food delivery company in the U.S. to offer this and we think that it is a way to make both customers and the fleet comfortable while making and receiving deliveries,” the third-party delivery company told Nation’s Restaurant News.
As of March 9, the Centers for Disease Control had documented 423 COVID-19 cases with 19 deaths in the U.S.
Uber Eats and Grubhub said its users have always had the ability to make special delivery requests including leaving food at the door, or with a doorman. Grubhub is the parent of Seamless, which is a top New York City delivery operator.
"Grubhub’s number one priority is and continues to be the health and safety of diners, drivers and restaurant partners," the company said in a statement issued late Monday to NRN. "Diners can use the Ordering Instructions box in the checkout section of our platform to personalize how they want their food delivered or they can contact their driver directly through the Grubhub app to discuss delivery arrangements as soon as a driver accepts the order. We’re also working on ways to make it even easier for diners to access and leave special requests and instructions for drivers."
On Monday, DoorDash said it is “testing enhanced features for contactless delivery to be rolled out shortly.”
Additionally, DoorDash said is reminding consumers in affected areas of the app's "delivery instruction" feature, which allows requests for food to be left at the door along with a photo of where the food should be left.
“We will continue to closely monitor and take action in response to this developing situation,” the San Francisco-based company said.
The delivery market leader in the U.S. has also set up a tips page for its Dashers, or drivers. The page lists actions and advice for protecting drivers and others from the coronavirus. The page, for example, tells drivers to be vigilant about cleaning their cars and hot bags.
“Keep surfaces, including your hot bag and vehicle, clean by using regular household cleaning spray or wipes,” the site states.
While third-party delivery operators can’t control when gig employees opt to work, the company strongly encouraged drivers to stay at home if they feel sick especially if "you are experiencing respiratory symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or shortness of breath, cold or flu-like symptoms.”
DoorDash said employees based in Seattle, one of the most impacted cities in the U.S., have been told to work from home. The city’s onboarding Dasher, or driver, support center has also been closed.
The company said it is also preparing to distribute much-needed supplies such as hand sanitizers to drivers in affected areas.
“For corporate employees, we've suspended non-essential travel and have always had a flexible work from home policy, at the manager's discretion,” DoorDash said.
Uber said it will compensate drivers, including food delivery workers who show "proper documentation" that they can't work for the following reasons: coronavirus diagnosis, placed in quarantine, asked to self isolate, or removed from the app for up to 14 days at the direction of a public health authority.
All four companies did not respond, or declined to comment, when asked if delivery orders have spiked as more people work from home.
New York City-based Lunchbox, which offers white-label digital ordering services to 400 restaurants in New York, said sales are up 26% across all brands. Digital orders are up 14% since the outbreak began making headlines in the U.S. in mid-January, the company told NRN. The company works with Bareburger and Sticky’s Finger Joint and Fuku.
Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected]
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Updated: This story was edited to include more details about digital orders spiking in New York and comments from DoorDash and Grubhub.