After a year of delivery app dominance, apps native to specific fast food chains are making a comeback. 

Ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft were among the first industries hit by COVID-19 last spring when lockdowns took effect across the nation. But by the summer, most had pivoted entirely to food delivery to make it through the pandemic. Uber made multiple attempts to acquire some of its smaller competitors, and ultimately ended up gobbling up Postmates in a $2.65 billion acquisition after repeated attempts to buy out GrubHub fell through.

Now, though, with a relatively successful vaccine rollout and parts of the country beginning to open up, the tide is swinging in the other direction. App Store reviews for major food delivery services like Uber Eats and Doordash are on a major downswing while in-store pickup apps for restaurants are trending upwards. 

Certain delivery services have seen a steeper decline from their summer 2020 surge than others, according to Thinknum data. ChowNow, a hybrid service that connects users to restaurants who then handle delivery on their own, has seen App Store ratings decrease 18% since the summer. Uber experienced a large spike in use and App Store ratings at the start of the year, but numbers took a nosedive just as rapidly in the last two and a half months. Meanwhile, Grubhub has experienced a slow but steady decline in ratings as the last year has gone on.

On some level, the decrease is natural. Despite the rise in popularity for food delivery, you can only order so much takeout before you get bored or go broke. Delivery apps also charge significant fees on top of the price of the food that add up over time and make it a less appealing option for repeat customers.

App Store reviews aren't the only signs pointing to a decline in delivery usage. As vaccines have become more widely available and cities across the country have reopened, investors have lost some faith in the delivery competitors. While some previously thought that reopening would give rise to ridesharing companies, caginess around the safety of ridesharing and the decreased reliance on food delivery has led to significant dips in value for both Uber and Lyft over the past month.

Still, consumers have grown accustomed to the immediacy brought on by the food delivery craze. The difference is that now they’d rather make the trek to their local Chipotle than pay half the cost of the food to have it delivered to their door. More fast food restaurants than ever run their own apps and section off an area near the registers for prepaid, in-store pickup orders. And the trend is catching on.

App Store ratings for 6 major fast food restaurants are up significantly over the same time period during which delivery apps were falling by the wayside. Shake Shack, Chipotle, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Jack in the Box, and Panera all saw App Store ratings rise anywhere from 30% to 95% since last summer.

Last summer there were whispers that food delivery was the way of the future, but the high cost associated with delivery apps and the increased safety brought on by vaccine rollouts has slowed their roll significantly. If they want to take over like many thought they were, they may have to adopt a model that reduces the cost burden on customers. Their path to do that may be through pushing legislation like California’s Proposition 22, which passed in the November 2020 election and allowed ridesharing companies to classify their drivers as contract workers rather than employees — meaning they don’t have to pay them minimum wage or provide health benefits. Some similar campaigns have already begun popping up in other states and cities where ridesharing and food delivery are prominent, like New York City.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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