A recent survey with a handful of randomly chosen customers who have ordered food items from Delivery Providers confirms that there are concerns indeed. Whether these concerns will be reflected by a slowing down of delivery uptake by consumers is another matter. There currently is no organised platform for consumers to voice their concerns about food delivery and that will mean that many complaints are either ignored or directed quietly to customer service departments. There have recently been several news reports focusing on issues with payment systems, i.e., customers being charged for items not ordered, but there has yet to be any concerted effort to review the operational practices that are the concern of Health and Safety experts and consumers alike.
What are the Health & Safety concerns and are they serious enough to warrant intervention or should we rely upon the industry itself to address its failings as it matures?
Looking at a broad sample of consumer complaints, we find that there are three types of complaints that are often repeated: firstly, food that is meant to be served hot, often arrives cold, secondly, food products are being transported in packaging that is often unsuitable for transport, resulting in spills and the potential for contamination, thirdly and perhaps most importantly food items arrive with no labelling and therefore no information on ingredients or composition. All three of these pose potentially serious risks for consumers and yet all three are found to be widespread.
Safe Food Products Require Safe Food Systems
In the rush to market, Food Delivery Service providers have focused primarily on increasing their customer base. Most of the larger players in the Food Delivery Service market (Deliveroo, Just Eat, Hungry House) are after all, pursuing a winner-takes-all strategy. It may be that in doing so they have long ago abandoned any commitment to designing and building complex and robust systems that would integrate food product management with logistics management, and instead focused on what could be argued is the more simple logistic challenge of moving products around.
If this is true, and many are beginning to think that it is, they may have inadvertently contributed to the creation of high risk delivery channels for food products to consumers. No one will deny that prior to the arrival of Just Eat and Deliveroo, finished food products were being regularly delivered to consumers. The change that however must be acknowledged with the arrival of the larger Delivery Service Providers (Just Eat, Deliveroo, Hungry House, etc) is the scale on which delivery has increased. Within the last three years, the number of consumers ordering finished food product delivered to their door has increased dramatically.
How Should Food Delivery Systems be Designed
Transparency within food systems refers to full disclosure of information about rules, procedures and practices at all levels within a food production and supply chain ...
The focus must be on providing full transparency to consumers regarding the nature of the products they order. Ideally, this information would travel with the product and be accurately amended whenever there has been a change to the product. For instance, in practical terms, this would mean that a product's history (ingredients, shelf life, temperature, place and date of origin) would be clearly indicated and would be immediately available to the consumer. In providing this information and should the systems be secure, Delivery Providers would have the assurance they need to guarantee the safe delivery of a safe product to consumers.
Of course, this type of food product tracking system is only one element of a much larger system. Other aspects of the 'Delivery System' would also need to be carefully planned, such as a Vetting Tool which allows Delivery Service Providers to accept orders only from Food Retail Outlets or restaurants that have been certified to offer a safe product for delivery. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges facing Food Management Systems Developers is the need to integrate their systems with the often primitive production and sale systems that many Restaurants and Food Retailers operate with.