When Did Food Delivery Start?

history of food delivery

Today, millions of people order their meals online every day. According to Bloomberg Second Measure, 50% of American consumers have ordered from Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash, Amazon Restaurants, Caviar, Waitr, or Grubhub at least once. This is up from 44% in their 2020 analysis. As people supported local eateries during the pandemic, these apps became more popular than ever. But when did food delivery start, and how did it become such a staple of the American home?


The Origins of Food Delivery

Believe it or not, we can trace this practice to the 18th Century. In Korea, a food delivery service for naengmyeon (noodles) launched in 1768. Shortly afterward, in Naples, Italy, the king and queen demanded that famous pizza maker Rafaele Esposito bring them pies from his restaurant, Pizzeria di Pietro e Basta Cosi.

The next year, an entrepreneur in Bombay began a lunch delivery service for workers. His system was so effective that it remains popular to this day. Business leaders are even known to visit India to learn from these Dabbawalas – “those who carry boxes.”


Television and Competition

As televisions rose in popularity, so did food delivery. Back in the 1950s, people wanted to stay home and watch primetime programs. Restaurant owners responded by converting dine-in-only eateries to accommodate takeout and delivery orders. They also used the television to their advantage by airing commercials and broadcasting their menus.

Once everyone was offering delivery, the market became more saturated. Restauranteurs had to innovate in order to stand out from the crowd. Casa D’Amore, a Los Angeles pizzeria, cracked the code by offering free delivery in 1952. The catch? Delivery was only free if orders exceeded $2.50, and their most popular menu item was priced at $2.25. This was a clever way to prompt hungry customers to order more food. Casa D’Amore’s tactic reigned supreme until Domino’s unleashed their famous offering: delivery in under 30 minutes.


Delivery and Technology

In the 1990s, customers gained the ability to order pizza on the “world wide web.” PizzaNet, property of Pizza Hut, was one of the first websites on the internet. From there, restaurants wanted to get online, but weren’t sure how to commission their own websites. Many began by using aggregator services like waiter.com (which launched in 1995). Waiter.com offered customers the ability to place online orders from more than sixty different restaurants. Today, we recognize it as the prototype for the apps we know and love.


The Future of Food Delivery

Today, we can order anything we want with a few quick taps. This convenience has usurped the previous norm: requesting food delivery on each business’s standalone website. In addition to ordering hot meals from restaurants, customers can now receive groceries and meal kits as needed. This has been an incredible asset over the past year of stay-at-home orders and self-quarantining.

Researchers anticipate that this trend will continue to grow in popularity. By 2023, online food delivery sales are expected to hit $220 billion. This will account for 40% of total sales from restaurants. Analysts at Deutsche Bank expect the online grocery market, currently worth $24 billion, to grow to $120 billion by 2025.

What do they expect to be the main factors in the industry moving forward? Subscription-based models, third-party delivery, restaurant-owned fleets, order tracking, and the intervention of Big Tech. As the tech-native Gen Z group ages, they are expected to heavily contribute to the market.

There’s no doubt that food delivery will continue to evolve. If you would like to stay on the cutting edge, we invite you to contact The On Demand Company. Our experts will help you to grow your delivery orders by over 200%.