My project will aim to discover how the restaurant-to-consumer food delivery service has benefited from the latest developments in communication technologies. In particular, my idea is to describe where the limits to timesaving are, in an era where instantaneity seems to be the goal to achieve.

At first, I thought that my research would be merely validating a simple hypothesis: The adoption of communication devices allow for greater efficiencies in both, the moment of the order (e.g. orders received online), and the moment of the delivery (e.g. GPS mapping technologies, and phone portability). I thought that the human factor – named, the deliveryman’s ability to ride or walk faster – was the main and only limitation to faster deliveries.

“Estimated delivery time” is one of the variables that consumers take into consideration when ordering food. The estimated time starts counting from the instant when the order is placed. After asking the same simple question to many restaurant employees (“Please describe the limits you encounter to save time in the process of delivering food”), the range of answers was much more extensive than the ones I originally expected. Answers included, but were not limited to:

  • High volume of orders in certain times of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner – depending on the type of food and the location of the restaurant).
  • Disproportionate correlation between the number of orders, the number of cooks, the size of the kitchen, the number of available deliverymen, etc.
  • Language barriers and misunderstandings on orders taken over the phone (in many cases, English is not the first language for one or both communicants).
  • Miscommunications experienced between the kitchen and the recipient of the order (e.g. missing ingredients the recipient of the order was not aware of).
  • Some food simply takes more time to prepare. Some takes little time; however, it has to be prepared right before its delivery in order to ensure freshness, etc.
  • Technical and other difficulties – e.g. The line is busy, the system is “down” and the computer needs to be restarted, the person who knows how to manage the online tool is away from the computer – e.g. at the restroom, the credit card service authorization process is experiencing delays, the chain of the bike has been displaced, the customer has bad signal and the communication is difficult to understand, dropped calls, etc..
  • Organizational constraints – Lack of ways to manage multiple orders to same locations in order to gain efficiencies.
  • Traffic considerations – both, cars and public transportation on the streets, and pedestrians on sidewalks.
  • Logistics – Address cannot be found, even while using GPS-based technologies.
  • Bureaucracies – e.g. “The Doorman”: In some cases, there is an extra step that needs to be taken at the time of the delivery.
  • Parking limitations – Lack of places to “park” the bike.
  • Bike conditions – Old bikes that need maintenance or need to be replaced.
  • The human factor – Deliverymen out of shape shape, sick, cold, tired, etc.
  • Weight and space considerations – Limited amount of orders that can be carried by one deliveryman and his bike.
  • Weather considerations – e.g. too hot, too cold, rainy days.
  • Facilities considerations – It’s a walk-up, elevator takes too long, etc.

The answer to the question “How do you think you can improve delivery times?” was almost unanimous: by limiting the delivery area.  In fact, many restaurant owners have decided to limit the areas of delivery, after getting complains and/or poor online reviews for taking too long to deliver the orders (“Online reviews can kill your business”, “there is always another pizza place closer to the destination”).

In sum, we can group the above listed observations under three main instants in the food delivery process:

1. The order

  • Communicants: customer/receiver of the order.
  • Communication methods: phone/web.

2. Food preparation

  • Communicants: receiver of the order/cook.
  • Communication methods: oral/handwritten and printed notes/electronic.

3. The delivery

  • Communicants: receiver of the order/deliveryman/pedestrians and/or drivers/intermediary – e.g. doorman/customer.
  • Communication methods: oral/handwritten or printed notes, maps and directions/mean of transportation/street signs and rules/cell phone/GPS, etc.

Considering all the abovementioned variables, and understanding the third instant (“the delivery”) as the one that can be mapped as flows or movement onto geographical contexts, I will focus the subject of study in this very moment of the delivery: the process that starts at the time when the deliveryman receives the package to be delivered.

Thoughts? I appreciate any feedback you can provide.