Blurs of red, green and orange race across town as night falls in Groningen. Bike delivery people working for Fooddrop, Thuisbezorgd and Uber Eats crisscross the city streets, bulky bags on their backs, bringing burgers, pizza and almost anything else your heart and stomach desire to hungry diners.
Thanks to the city’s bike-first infrastructure, Groningen seems tailor made for the growing bike take away service industry. An analysis by ABN AMRO estimated that the food delivery industry nationwide is set to make 1.5 billion euros by the end of 2018. So what sets all of these companies apart?
Fooddrop, founded by Jantine Doornbos, kicked off the bike take out delivery trend in the city back in 2016. According to RTV Noord, the start-up employs nearly 100 people, contracts and all. Doornbos is seeking to improve her company’s delivery times by utilising technology to help find the best routes at different times of day.
The Groningen start up recently began sharing its traffic data with Cycloon bike couriers, a parcel delivery service in the city, so that they can increase their efficiency as well. Doornbos says the company would like to eventually have minute-to-minute updates about which bridges are open and which streets are blocked due to roadworks. During Let’s Gro, Doornbos will lead a discussion about how to improve accessibility in the inner city, in part by increasing reliance on technology and moving away from lorries and delivery vans to reduce congestion.
Thuisbezorgd was launched in 2000 and now operates in a number of countries under variations on the name. The company traditionally simply serves as an intermediary for home diners to place their orders and then leaves it to the eateries themselves to deliver the food.
Since early 2018, Thuisbezorgd has had a bike delivery service hub located on the Gedempte Zuiderdiep. Groningen is one of five Dutch cities to offer bike delivery service, which makes it easier for eateries without their own delivery people on staff to get into the take away game: restaurants without their own delivery staff cover 30 percent of the costs for Thuisbezorgd’s service. Fooddrop’s commission is lower, but Uber eats reportedly charges 35 percent to the restaurants.
Back in May, Takeaway.com’s public relations manager Kristina Nilsson told RTV Noord that Groningen is an especially attractive market. “The number of restaurants and residents is in keeping with what we’re looking for. It has a nice range of different kinds of restaurants, and it’s a student city.” Nilsson says that restaurants that work with Thuisbezorgd can make up to 80,000 euros extra in sales.
Uber Eats began operating in Groningen in October. The company says that they decided to come to Groningen because there were so many people using their app in the city and looking to order home delivered food. Uber Eats’s operations in Groningen are such a recent addition that the city is not even included on the site’s list of locations. Amsterdam is the only Dutch city mentioned by name.
In Amsterdam, Uber Eats and similar companies like Deliveroo have faced scrutiny about their employment conditions. Uber Eats hires staff on a self-employed basis and therefore do not have to provide any benefits. In Deliveroo’s case, a court in Amsterdam declared that the bike delivery staff are technically self-employed because they can choose which deliveries to do and use their own bike, clothing and thermal food boxes to carry out the work. All an Uber Eats delivery person needs is to be 18 years old and have their own bike. RTV Noord reports that Uber Eats personnel are insured in the event of an accident, illness or pregnancy.
Bikes versus scooters
Different delivery companies set themselves apart by working with certain kinds of restaurants and delivery staff. Fooddrop specialises in restaurants with healthier organic options and works exclusively with bike-based deliveries, whereas Uber Eats works with fast food chains like McDonalds. Thuisbezorgd still uses scooters for some deliveries and its staff is paid on an hourly basis, which is probably for the best in a country with a limited tipping culture.
Another unique feature of the bike take out companies is the number of internationals they seem to employ. Anyone who orders curry or sushi from a local restaurant should not be surprised when their bike delivery person tells them to “enjoy their meal” instead of “eet smakkelijk”. Given the limited need to communicate verbally in the job, it seems logical that working as a bike delivery person would be an appealing opportunity for foreign students seeking some extra income.
Chinese food and pizza
Take away used to be considered the realm of Chinese restaurants and pizza places. The number of restaurants in the city that have started using their own bike-based delivery systems is undeniably growing, with some companies equipping bikes with cases on the front and back to do more deliveries in one go. Pizza chains are keeping up with the times, too: Groningen has more Domino’s franchises than any other city in Europe aside from London, and the American-based brand has gradually transitioned toward more and more bike deliveries.
What does the future hold for the bike delivery system? Well, it may also face competition from automation: Dominos announced that Groningen could one day serve as a pilot site for its pizza robot delivery system.