When it comes to food, we all need it, but can be lazy to prepare it. Hence the reason food delivery is pretty darn popular. Millions of us have the UberEats, DoorDash or Postmates app — and a few of us have all of them — installed on our smartphones. But just how many of us are addicted?
Cooking is time consuming and requires skill. Ordering from an app is fast, convenient and gives access to loads
of great dining options within a few miles of home. And this convenience is why food delivery addictions are now thriving.
Addiction is a heavy term. It’s a complex disorder, and you’ll likely not find “food delivery addiction” in any psychology journals or textbooks — but that sure doesn’t make it any less real. What you will find in those journals and textbooks however is a categorization called “behavioral addictions.” These refer to addictions that involve behaviors which are repeatedly carried out despite offering no tangible benefit (in fact, they might just be causing harm). While food delivery apps are indeed convenient, the tradeoff for that convenience could just be a behavioral addiction with overspending as the characteristic harm.
Here’s a statistic that validates our devotion for food delivery apps: Statista and McKinsey’s most recent data show that in 2015, annual food delivery app revenues were at $8.7 million. Fast forward five years: it’s the end of 2020 and that amount has catapulted to over $26 billion. Undeniably, we’ve got the pandemic to thank for helping to propel the industry forward, but that’s not to say the pandemic is to be fully credited here. Before the pandemic, in 2018, the industry had doubled to over $16 billion in revenue. It’s now 2021 and the industry is expected to keep growing. With our world slowly reopening, a large part of this future food delivery app growth will not be fueled by lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions, but instead our own ostensible addictions to these apps. Fiscal projections by Research & Markets as well as the IMARC Group estimate that food delivery app revenues will hit well over $40 billion in the next four years.
According to David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, when it comes to internet-related addictions, necessity is not the mother of invention. But instead, convenience is. And in this case, that convenience comes at a pricey premium. How much exactly? Up to 91% more in total. This is thanks to the baffling web of markups and additional charges that saturate these services. From delivery fees, taxes, tips and services. For illustration, a New York Times report showed that a $39 Panda Express family meal when ordered through a food delivery app could cost $58 on GrubHub and as much as $63 on the UberEats app (both figures are before tips). It is uncomplicated to see how that uncontainable yearning for a quick and tasty dinner within a few tabs can quickly create a drain in the bank account.
Last year, one Redditt user, who joined the budgeting app YNAB, shared details on their food delivery addiction. The user disclosed that their YNAB account revealed a total of 18 food delivery app transactions in one month. But most alarming — and perhaps proof of the struggles associated with breaking any addiction — are their admission on the difficulties of stopping. Their recovery plan has included everything from learning to cook, setting a budget and uninstalling the apps. All have failed.
While this one Reddit user willingly and openly categorizes their high monthly transactions as an indicator of their food delivery addiction, your personal transaction history might differ and should not be the sole factor used to establish your own potential addiction. In accordance with experts, the questions you should ask are “Is it impacting my ability to live a quality life in other ways?” or “Am I spending money I don't have?” Based on your answers to those questions, you can determine if you do indeed have a food delivery addiction — as well as how deep you might be in.
So, what does all this really mean?
As the mammoth food delivery industry becomes a juggernaut in the upcoming years, you’ll need to be more mindful that a food delivery addiction can be an expensive one to have, and a difficult one to break. This will mean being less susceptible to that shimmering convenience factor and more aware of its true cost. With a healthy dose of awareness and self-control, your bank account and midriff will be exceedingly appreciative.