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Not that the restaurant delivery business wasn't rapidly growing before, but the COVID-19 pandemic has sent delivery app sales through the roof: According to MarketWatch, America's top four restaurant delivery companies—DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, and Postmates—doubled their April to September income in 2020 to about $5.5 billion from just $2.5 billion during the same period in 2019. But on top of simply placing more orders, a new Wall Street Journal report suggests that we're paying more for our individual orders than we were back in 2019, as well.
The WSJ placed three otherwise identical orders from three Philadelphia restaurants using three different apps—DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates—in both 2019 and 2021. Granted, it's a limited sample size—but all three orders had gone up in price, both in the food costs and the service fee. Only the delivery fees hadn't increased across the board, but for interesting reasons.
An order of two pastas from Applebee's via DoorDash saw its price increase from just over $40 to over $50, thanks to food costs jumping about $5 and the service fee increasing over $2. Yes, the delivery fee dropped, but Philadelphia had also passed caps on how much delivery apps could charge restaurants, so DoorDash was now also adding a $1.50 "regulatory response fee."
An order of four Bacon King Sandwich meals from Burger King through Grubhub also jumped from about $47 to about $65, an increase of nearly a third—and this despite no delivery fee at all thanks to a promotion Grubhub was offering. Instead, the food costs were about 50 percent higher and the service fee had more than tripled to $5.46.
Finally, an order of three harvest bowls from Sweetgreen placed in Postmates saw its price surge from just over $40 to more than $55. Though the delivery fee was the same, the food costs were up about $10 and the service fee was up substantially from $4.84 to $8.10.
The Wall Street Journal also points out that, in some cases, the increased delivery order costs are coming from the restaurants themselves. For instance, Chipotle's prices are reportedly about 17 percent higher for delivery than they are in-store. As a result, the WSJ found that an order from Chipotle that would cost $13.65 bought in-store sets customers back $15.95 when ordered through DoorDash—and that's before DoorDash adds any of their fees which pushed the overall total even higher. However, those higher in-app menu prices could just as well be seen as a necessary measure to help restaurants cover what many consider to be excessively high commission fees charged by the apps themselves.
The takeaway: Ordering delivery has always been a bit of a splurge. Of course it is: You're paying for someone to bring food to your door. But if you're trying to keep an eye on your spending, next time, before you fire up that delivery app, consider comparing the price of delivery to picking your food up yourself. In some situations, you may save some significant cash.