How has the coronavirus affected the food delivery market?

The impact of the coronavirus on the food delivery market in China and Europe was most visible in the initial period. The downtime was most likely caused by concerns about safe home delivery.

Nobody would have expected the situation that we are facing right now. A virus born in a city of 11 million people soon spread around the world, wreaking havoc and changing the lives of each and every one of us. The pandemic is not only a threat to our health, but it is also harming the global economy. Today we will try to answer the question of how the coronavirus has affected the food delivery market.

Changes in the restaurant industry

One of the industries that have suffered the most is the food service industry. All restaurants were closed based on one administrative decision, leaving deliveries and the takeaway option as restaurants’ last resort. We will not discuss this decision right now, but we have to know under what circumstances it was taken.

In the current situation, a difficult question has to be asked. Is it profitable for restaurateurs to continue working and turning things upside down by changing their current mode of operation? Even if you ignore the question of profitability, how can one simply survive and stay afloat on the market? How to avoid being forced into a position where you have to fire your entire staff and shut down your business?

Before making any decisions, it’s worth analyzing the reaction of those who have been dealing with the coronavirus epidemic for a long time. We will try to look at restaurants in China and Western Europe. Is there a chance that Polish consumers will behave in a similar way? We will start with the Middle Kingdom.

How has the coronavirus affected the food delivery market in China?

Before the outbreak of the epidemic, China had the largest online food delivery market. Its value in 2020 was estimated at EUR 40,658 million (can you imagine, EUR 40,658,000,000?), with an annual growth rate of about 7%.

Unfortunately, no one could have foreseen the storm on the horizon.

The coronavirus hit in December and, due to the rapid increase in the number of cases, the Chinese government imposed a mandatory quarantine on extensive areas of the Republic. Restaurants faced the choice that many European entrepreneurs have to face now. Shut down the business or rely on deliveries?

Perhaps the habits of ordering everything online have played a big role here because as early as January 2020, Chinese customers spent 20% more on deliveries from restaurants compared to the previous year. Interestingly, most deliveries carried out in China prior to the spread of the virus concerned single-person orders. During the peak of the epidemic, the inhabitants of China changed their consumer habits, increasing the amount of food ordered and placing orders for bigger groups of people. The Chinese company Meituan has reported a 31% increase in orders for more than one person and a 70% increase in orders for groups over 5 people. It’s understandable – in the period we call “quarantine”, people stay at home with their families.

The situation in Hong-Kong

On the other hand, at the very beginning of the outbreak, Hong Kong residents preferred to buy food and cook it at home. After only a few weeks, the number of food deliveries from restaurants increased significantly. The British company Deliveroo (a direct competitor of UberEats and Wolt), which operates in dozens of markets worldwide, claims that orders have increased by 60% since January. The well-known company – Foodpanda – recorded a two-fold increase in demand for its services between the Chinese New Year, falling on January 25, to the beginning of March.

The vast majority of orders from January to the beginning of February were contactless. Couriers, wanting to alleviate customer apprehension, carry with them special cards confirming their good health.

How has the coronavirus been affecting the food delivery market in Europe?

Unlike the inhabitants of the country on the Yangtze River, Italians and Spaniards have never been in favor of buying things online. Before the outbreak, 4% (in Italy) and 5% (in Spain) of total retail revenues came from online shopping. The rate of buying food online was even lower. In a survey conducted by, only 18% of food deliveries were made online. 37% of Italians, when asked how much they would spend on food deliveries in 2020, said that they would spend nothing at all.

As it turned out, at least some of these promises were empty.

The national manager of the Glovo company – Elisa Pagliarani, explains that the beginning was difficult since some restaurants had to close during the epidemic. The demand for restaurant dishes decreased. Recently, however, the downward trend has reversed, and the number of orders is growing at a phenomenal rate. The coronavirus pandemic has also had a positive impact on the sales of competing companies like Deliveroo or Just Eats.

Consumer doubts

In China and Europe, the food delivery market has not slowed down. At least it didn’t for long. The initial downtime was partly due to concerns about the safety of delivery.

The Google trends curve shows it well. During the epidemic, the number of inquiries about the safety of food delivery by UK residents has significantly increased.

Certainly, interest in the topic is growing. Therefore, we should be surprised by the efforts of companies around the world convincing customers that they have no grounds for concern.

In Poland, UberEats, just like Wolt and ( group), enable contactless delivery and takeaway for all their platform users.

What is non-contact delivery?

As the name suggests, customers who have chosen this option do not want to have direct contact with the driver. Non-contact delivery implies that the courier, after calling the apartment, simply leaves the meal on the customer’s doorstep (the Papu System also offers this option for restaurants that want to start selling on their website).

Portals and restaurants introduce a lot of restrictions and rules that their employees must follow. For example, couriers working for ( group) are equipped with hand disinfectants. Uber employees who have been infected with the coronavirus or who have been quarantined are entitled to financial support granted for the period of their account suspension, but not for more than 2 weeks. Due to the limited amount of disinfectants, some suppliers have to buy them for themselves.

What will the situation be in Central Europe (on the example of Poland)?

We have calculated how the coronavirus affected sales, the number of deliveries, and the average order value in the restaurants we selected over the last few weeks. These figures were compared to the results obtained with data from January.

The choice of restaurants that took part in the study was not accidental. We selected premises located in various parts of Poland, for which deliveries were an important or even a key element of business and sales.

A restaurant from Łódź generated 55% of sales from deliveries in January, a restaurant from Silesia 65%, from Kraków 85%, and a restaurant in Poznań almost 95% of its turnover.

Since the coronavirus outbreak in Poland, sales in all the restaurants under analysis have decreased between around 5% to 14%. The decrease in sales affected the least those restaurants whose business model was previously based almost entirely on deliveries and those where deliveries accounted for at least 50% of all orders. The percentage of turnover generated by deliveries increased in most cases by about 2%. Except for a restaurant from Silesia, where the volume of deliveries increased by as much as 10%.

The charts below illustrate changes in the ordering structure of Łódź restaurants. Customers gave up on meals eaten in the restaurants in favor of takeaway dishes.

There was a decrease in the number of dishes ordered through portals by 11%, and the average order value increased by about PLN 10.
In restaurants where deliveries accounted for most orders, the number of dishes ordered by portals and the average value of the order did not change significantly compared to the values from January.


The information collected by us shows that restaurants most affected by the current situation are those that have so far lived mainly from customers eating onsite. In the case of this gastro-business group, it is evident that the number of orders regularly decreases, along with the restaurants’ profits. What’s worse, having no alternative, some of these restaurants had to completely suspend their operations.

Premises that were based on deliveries before the epidemic are in a slightly better position. Unfortunately, for them, the problem also exists and should not be underestimated. There is light at the end of the tunnel for this group, although it’s not as bright as it could be.

The owners of restaurants in China and Europe have trodden similar paths. After the initial crisis, customers remembered their favorite restaurants, which resulted in a growing number of deliveries. That’s why restaurateurs have to be patient. The moment when people run out of huge quantities of panic-bought food is sure to come. The only question is – how long will this take? Unfortunately, no one knows the exact answer.

Initiatives worth your attention

Is there anything we could advise you on during this difficult period? You may be thinking “easier said than done,” but there are a few things that should help:

  • talk with your employees and make sure they know the general direction and new working methods,
  • enable your clients to use contactless delivery,
    supply your employees with disinfectants and gloves,
  • speak out about the precautions you have taken at your restaurant,
  • there are many initiatives your restaurant can get involved in.


Get inspired:


You can also search for actions by hashtags:

#supportrestaurants, #feedthepeople,

Participation in such initiatives will boost the positive image of your restaurant in the eyes of a potential customer and ensure your team has something to do during periods of downtime! Besides, we believe that helping is always a good idea!

  • Do not sit and wait for answers – in times of crisis, innovative ideas materialize faster!
  • Stay active on social media. At the same time, remember that exaggeration in everything is not advisable! That’s why you need to make sure that the content that you post is diverse. After all, there are a lot of things worth talking about apart from the coronavirus.

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