There has been a sort of double arms race in delivery of late.
The first arms race is built around information technology. This race has mostly been run by plucky startups. The introduction of apps that aggregate many different restaurants, chains, and independents has created a situation in which non-pizza places and independents in general are now able to compete with chains on a more equal footing. This has proved to be such a successful model that many of these startups, all over the world, have become none-too-plucky and have set themselves firmly on the road to Behemoth (which I believe is a town in Montana).
The second arms race is built around hardware. Chains, the residents of Behemoth, have taken the initiative here by (OK, in just a couple of instances) developing an air force of drones and different unmanned vehicles to deliver their goods. Truth be told, almost nothing has been delivered this way but there has been a lot written about each and every item delivered.
All the while, a behemoth with its own IT and its own drones has been entering the fray: Amazon.
Amazon appears to have moved beyond all the cool zip codes inside actual cities and into...well... Irvine, California. I suppose it's like a city and it's kinda cool but it is in no way as cool as the city of San Francisco...or whatever the name of the cool part of Brooklyn is...or Wrigleyville (Chicago)...or the Pearl District...or the neighborhood of the Global Foodservice Blog Mountain Redoubt (where, to be fair, Prime takes an extra day and we pick up our mail at the post office). The point is that it's one thing to market some stuff to those people who do all that cool stuff on their phones. It's another thing entirely to sell stuff to their older siblings or their parents. It's a move to the mainstream.
There is concern among restaurant chains that the kind of dis-intermediation taking place in the delivery "space" is less than desirable. The apps control the way the outlet is presented. A good bit of branding is removed. This is less of a problem for independents. If they can offer Pad Thai to a complete stranger at the price they put on their menu, it's a complete upside for them.
As we've talked about apps and foodservice delivery at other times in this space, the big benefit from the IT applications standpoint in the U.S. has been the independents. The apps provided them with reach and payment processing that they could not afford or manage in the past. Much of the growth in delivery in the past few years in the U.S. has come from non-pizza, non-chain outlets.
As much talking as there is about apps, NPD's report Delivery-A Growth Opportunity on the Horizon clearly illustrates that the telephone is still the primary means of ordering delivered food....except for millennials. And, apps are still less than a fifth of all foodservice orders across the board. What's missing from all research is the incidence of internet/app ordering offerings at restaurants. From our data, I'd guess that the majority of restaurants still rely on the phone. To me that means that there is still a huge upside and that's where Amazon comes in.
Now, Amazon is a behemoth for sure. But merchants seem to keep coming to Amazon to front for them and handle all those pesky details like billing and logistics. This could be similar to inventing an entire new ecosystem under which all restaurant offerings are more or less equal. Although there are lots of restaurant chains working tirelessly all around the world to regain their advantages in the new world of apps. Based on NPD's delivery report, we can see that we're only at the start of this.