It’s hard to imagine, with many restaurants still only open for takeout and delivery, that any of the major online ordering and delivery apps would be struggling to get by. Nonetheless, Grubhub has been bought out by Just Eat Takeaway, a British competitor.
Despite having originally been an innovator in the delivery app boom, Grubhub has been suffering a bust from the rise of countless competitors in the market, and had been seeking a buyout since before COVID hit. Uber had been looking into acquiring the company, but walked away after increased concerns over antitrust laws (despite also commenting that they “still see consolidation of the food delivery industry as a path to profitability.”)
It feels important to point out that this merger is also coinciding with the European Union’s antitrust investigations looking into companies such as Amazon and Apple, with the U.S. possibly launching a similar investigation of Google.
And there’s the exhausting thing about capitalism: if all the major delivery apps saddle restaurants with exorbitant fees and treat their drivers like garbage, it’s hard to feel like being able to choose between 4 or 5 different apps really makes a difference. And it turns out that the delivery apps themselves get screwed over when trying to secure contracts with larger chain restaurants. It’s hard to believe in capitalist ideals like “competition” or “innovation” when no one benefits from any of it. But the illusion of choice is the only thing that keeps industry giants from just doing whatever the hell they want, so we’ll have to cling to them until society as a whole is ready to throw the whole thing out.
A while back, a number of chefs on Twitter were talking about their frustrations with delivery apps, and briefly discussed the possibilities of organizing their own delivery services. Presumably, the talks didn’t go very far for the same reasons that apps are looking to merge for: it’s just not profitable.
Everyone loves to talk about how they love to support independent businesses, so theoretically they would be willing to pay a little extra to support a local restaurant’s delivery service, or even some form of co-op courier service. But the fact that ““in these trying times”” everyone decided to do all their impulse shopping at Amazon, putting Bezos well on track to become the first ever trillionaire, makes me a little less optimistic. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of people opting for the cheapest alternative, so companies cut or stagnate workers’ wages to keep costs down, so now those workers have no choice but to seek out the cheapest alternatives.
I’m not saying revolution is the only option, but I’m pretty much out of ideas at this point.