Few sectors cause as much controversy as that of the delivery of food at home. Although it has been a long time since pizza became popular without controversy, the emergence of large platforms that act as intermediaries between an increasingly wide range of restaurants and a growing number of customers has been a turning point in recent years that has become even more relevant with the coronavirus pandemic. It is now possible to order any type of food and have it at home in just over half an hour.
But the social cost of this service, as it is currently proposed, is high: the precariousness of the delivery men has caused a cascade of sentences against Glovo and Deliveroo which has resulted in a cry to legislate on their work. Last year Just Eat dissociated itself from the false self-employed model and began hiring them – directly or through logistics companies – with the aim that all its ‘riders’ earn more than the minimum wage and contribute to Social Security. However, its CEO in Spain, Patrik Bergareche, considers this to be “a comparative disadvantage” for Just Eat.
– Wouldn’t it really be unfair competition?
– I do not like that term because it is very accusatory. But I have always believed that you cannot do business outside the law. And neither should business models be built in gray areas of the regulatory framework, which is where the sector emerged. In Spain, the only way to deliver food at home without the risk of breaking the law is now by hiring the ‘riders’. And we have shown that it can be profitable. In addition, in this digital world in which the delivery person becomes the only link between the customer and the restaurant, we believe that having a high level of affiliation with him is positive for the service. Opening the door and seeing someone in uniform and good manners is important, and this model gives us more control over that aspect at a time of brutal growth. In any case, I think that legislation should be enacted as soon as possible to create a sustainable environment and that we all play by the same rules.
– But it is one thing to hire the ‘riders’ and quite another to offer decent conditions.
– Definitely. We offer hourly pay that will always be above the minimum wage. In the case of subcontractors, we require that every three months they send us the Social Security certificates to be able to audit the service. It is true that we cannot always control everything we would like, and in the past there have been companies whose services we have dispensed with.
– What is your opinion of the cooperatives that are emerging to compete with you?
– I see it fantastic. I think there should be options for all types of workers. Now that a regulation in favor of the employee model is looming, there are freelancers who do not want to work for others and I think it is a good alternative for them. We do, however, offer a professional career plan so that dealers can grow and become fleet managers or Operations managers.
– For their part, restaurants criticize the excessive commissions charged for home delivery.
– It is true that we have a commission model -30% -, but the unit profit is very low and, although in 2019 Just Eat was the only profitable company in the sector, we make money by the hair. With the expenses we have -between 12 and 13 euros per hour for each delivery person, plus fixed expenses- and what we charge -about 8 euros in a typical order of 25- the delivery person has to make more than one order per hour so that be profitable. I understand that restaurants complain that we take a relevant percentage, but they also have to see these costs.
– Do you think the customer is aware of the need to improve the sector or is he just looking for the lowest price?
– We have carried out studies with consumers and it has caught our attention that an incipient number – between 10% and 20% – choose us because of our work commitment. And the same has happened with large restaurant chains that sign with us. But in the current economic situation, with many people struggling to make ends meet, it is not clear to me that this ethical commitment prevails over the offers and the price.
– How do you see the future of the sector in the next decade?
– Growth will continue because this is a phenomenon that has come to stay. Before the pandemic, we were at 5% of the total restoration and now we are close to 10%. In the UK they are already close to 30%, so the potential is enormous. Restaurants have understood this and we will see more and more ‘ghost kitchens’ like those of Dani García, intended only for home delivery. The regulatory framework will change because countries have realized that innovation cannot be at the cost of precariousness. And finally, automation and robotics will gain weight. In ten years, we will see the distribution with autonomous vehicles and drones in some districts.
– It does not seem the best horizon for the flesh and blood delivery men.
– Some say that companies will have to pay for robots and that there is social stability. I would not be surprised, but I do not like this model either because humans must give value to our existence without anyone coming to give us a check so that we do nothing. Robotization can be a good complement to job creation. Delivery drivers may have to take orders to a central point, and from there robots take care of the bottom rung. But, without a doubt, the challenge of finding a balance is enormous.