As Coronavirus continues to spread across the US as well as the globe, the economic ramifications are just beginning to sink in.
A few weeks ago, the US stock market saw its worst week since the 2008 Financial Crisis. And just this week, the Dow suffered its worst drop since the 1987 Black Monday Crash. As COVID-19 continues to spread, the worldwide economy will also feel the effects.
Fears over the economic ramifications of this pandemic have spiralled as day by day new story lines emerge. Investors and consumers alike are bracing for the economic impact of a truly historic event in the lives of everyone today.
While many industries are sure to feel the squeeze, for example manufacturing companies who will likely feel the true impact down the road as output slows in response to the crisis, other industries may actually see changes in consumer behavior help their bottom line. One such example is the food delivery industry.
To combat the spread of this disease, many people have begun to cut down on contact with others known as ‘social distancing’. In some locations across the US, measures to aggressively limit needless social interaction have already been enacted.
For example, in the last few days the NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, PGA, NCAA and other leagues have all paused or ceased operation for the foreseeable future. Some locations, such as Illinois, are limiting large gatherings. Governor Pritzker has ordered a cancellation of public events with more than 1,000 attendees and requested that organizers of events with more than 250 people shut down. In New York state, Governor Cuomo banned public gatherings of over 500 people.
Many colleges across the nation have also either shut down or moved to online methods of instruction to try and keep students more isolated at home or in dorms.
As people look to avoid heading outside as much as possible, they will likely turn to food delivery to address their hunger needs. In China for example, where the virus originated, there was a 20% increase in spending on food delivery in the month of January compared to the previous year. And as MarketWatch pointed out last week, “People who isolate themselves with ‘social distancing measures’ would still need food.” Given this obvious conclusion, expect to see a rise in the number of orders placed through third delivery services as more and more consumers opt to stay indoors vs. eat out and choose to avoid the risk and chaos of grocery shopping.
Food delivery companies in the United States are likely to see a similar rise in demand for their services, at least in the short term. D.A. Davidson analyst Tom Forte said that, “concerns related to the outbreak may motivate consumers to stay home and order in, which could provide a boost to short-term revenues.”
According to him, Coronavirus could provide companies like Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats a short term boost in sales. What may be interesting to watch is if their supply of food delivery couriers remains stable. In the last few days, large gig economy players have discussed or implemented policies to provide alternative compensation for ‘gig workers’ that they have not previously considered employees. Uber and Lyft have both announced they will provide up to 14 days compensation for drivers that fall ill.
Despite these measures aimed at keeping their operations running, it is possible that couriers may also feel more inclined to remain home and wait out the virus before resuming their gig economy jobs.
In this scenario, food delivery companies would have no alternative but to offer higher pay to motivate their fleets of contract workers to continue delivering orders.
While the exact scope of Coronavirus is still unclear, food delivery certainly seems like an industry that has the potential to help people contain the spread of the virus. An Uber spokeswoman said in response to the outbreak, “Uber is not a healthcare expert and follows the guidance of local Public Health Organizations. We are monitoring the situation and take action based on their recommendations.”
Likewise, a spokesman for Grubhub said, “This is obviously a complex and fast-moving situation. We are focused on prioritizing the health and safety of our drivers, diners, restaurant partners and employees during this challenging time. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, including assessing and analyzing the potential impact on our business.”
In response to the spread, DoorDash, Postmates, and UberEats have all enacted measures to allow for No-Contact Delivery. Couriers are instructed to drop off food in a specific location and leave allowing the consumer to pick up the food afterwards with no human interaction thereby limiting the potential spread of the virus.
Though much is still unknown about Coronavirus, avoiding contact with others who are potentially infected is the best way to remain healthy. Especially since symptoms may not be detectable at first, social distancing is a good preemptive measure to avoid infection.
As people continue to practice this measure, food delivery companies should prepare to see a rise in demand as more and more consumers opt to stay inside instead of dining out at restaurants. In fact, there has already been a noticeable trend away from eating out.
Technomic reports in a recent survey that ⅓ of Americans currently plan to dine out at restaurants less in favor of staying home while practicing social distancing measures.
As Coronavirus spreads, we will continue to monitor the impact on the food delivery industry and how demand fluctuates as officials attempt to control the spread. As of now, food delivery is certainly a safer option in terms of food, especially for the higher risk portion of the populations who are more susceptible to Coronavirus.
*FoodBoss Disclaimer: FoodBoss itself has not scientifically validated any of these findings. FoodBoss is a food delivery aggregator that allows you to compare multiple food delivery services at once to save money and time.