What mobility means for pizza delivery

Noah Waldman
New York City 40°42'52" N, 74°00'26” W

Better mobility within cities means a reduction in food deserts, and increased order-in desserts.

One of the minor, yet existentially terrifying, parts of living in a major city is the perpetual threat of your favorite restaurant adjusting their delivery area so that you're no longer within it. Much like school district boundaries, easy access to delicious, reasonably priced delivery has an effect on the desirability of a neighborhood – especially among the increasingly large cohort of workers with unpredictable and inflated work schedules who can't reliably carve time out for cooking.

What determines delivery range?

Unfortunately for them, what determines where restaurants decide to deliver is a complicated arithmetic involving many factors – number of couriers, courier safety, access to vehicles, etc. – outside the customer's control. Many of these factors fall under the umbrella of isoline routing, essentially the question of, “Taking everything into account, how far can I go along a route in a given time?" Isoline explains why delivery areas are almost never perfect circles with the restaurant in the middle – a mile in one direction may take twice as long to travel as a mile in another.

The necessity of isoline thinking takes on greater importance in densely-packed urban areas than in suburban or rural ones. There's a greater expectation that delivery drivers in other areas will have cars, allowing for more convenient access to larger swaths in less time. Meanwhile, many delivery people in cities rely on e-bikes, which allow them to easily weave through traffic, negates a need for parking, and typically don't require a license to operate. However, e-bikes can't go as fast as cars, aren't really suited for long-distance travel on highways, have comparably limited battery life, and can't hold nearly as many orders. Therefore, time per delivery takes primacy over pure distance to destination.

Improving isoline, improving delivery

Luckily, many of the same cities in which food delivery is dominated by e-bikes have recently turned their attention towards making themselves more accessible to a variety of growing mobility options including e-bikes and scooters. Dedicated bike lanes would mean that delivery drivers wouldn't have to take the time or the risk to weave through dense traffic. Having more docks and bike racks would let them lock up their bikes during deliveries so that they could feel safer leaving them unattended in less familiar neighborhoods.

Companies like Seamless or Postmates, that focus more specifically on delivery over the entire food preparation process, could even invest in urban mobility solutions, like those we provide, to determine optimal isoline routing solutions for their fleets of urban couriers.

Urban mobility and food delivery options

Greater ease of delivery should also further strengthen the growing trend of people choosing to order in rather than eat out.

The benefits of better mobility to the hungry customer are multiplied for the restaurants serving them. Faster deliveries mean more deliveries, and a wider delivery area opens restaurants up to new customers. 

This would be a boom for Ghost Kitchens - restaurants that exclusively serve take-out and delivery customers – and may convince other eateries to save money by eliminating their need for front-of-house staff and amenities. Restaurants are a famously cut-throat industry, so many should welcome any means to reduce their overhead and increase profits.

For more on how the industry is going to change to adapt to increasing demand of online ordering and delivery, check out our ebook, Global Food Fight, which examines the food delivery industry in its three largest markets: China, the United States, and India.

Topics: Urban mobility

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