- Postmates introduced a non-contact delivery option on Friday where customers can choose to have their orders left at the door, according to a company blog post. Customers can still choose to meet their delivery driver at the door or curbside as well, and can select their delivery preference when checking out.
- "We know there are always people who, for health and other reasons, might prefer a non-contact delivery experience and we believe this will provide customers with that option," the company said in the post.
- The new feature comes as the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the country, causing companies of all sizes to cancel non-essential travel and require employees to work from home.
When the virus first started spreading across China earlier this year, restaurants like KFC and Pizza Hut added contactless delivery that allowed couriers and customers agreed upon a set location for order pickup. Food delivery companies Meituan and Ele.me also began providing contactless services.
Though Postmates doesn't identify the coronavirus specifically in its blog post, its new feature seems to have the same objective of reducing person-to-person contact. According to the Centers for Disease Control, person-to-person transmission of the virus usually occurs in close contact, or within about six feet, when an infected person coughs or squeezes. So far, Postmates is the only major U.S. restaurant delivery company to offer this service, though Instacart added "Leave at My Door Delivery" last week for grocery customers.
As the coronavirus continues to proliferate, the food delivery industry could make gains. More customers are likely to use these services as they avoid public crowds and, indeed, Instacart's sales growth has increased as much as 20 times in the past week in states like Washington, where the outbreak was first identified in the U.S., as well as California, New York and Oregon.
During a conference last week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said that while the company's ride-sharing business has slowed, its Uber Eats division could benefit as more people stay home to avoid contracting the virus. Indeed, as major companies like Apple, Google and Amazon request their employees to work from home, it could potentially translate into thousands of potential food delivery customers.
However, while the outbreak may be a business boon for delivery companies, there is another narrative to this: driver safety. Those on the front lines are vulnerable to exposure as they may not have the luxury of declining work. As such, Uber, DoorDash and Postmates have been involved in discussions (with Lyft and Instacart) about setting up a fund to compensate drivers exposed to or quarantined because of the coronavirus.
Postmates told the Atlantic that it shared CDC guidance with its drivers and will "continue to encourage employees, merchants, consumers, and everyone to follow preventative measures such as washing hands and staying in if you are sick."
It's unclear if measures like these will be enough to keep the food delivery economy strong amid the outbreak. Though delivery platforms may benefit in the short-term, what will likely emerge as the biggest winner out of this epidemic is anything that promotes that idea of “contactless," and its likely more delivery companies will join Postmates in adopting options that eliminate human contact.