Food delivery mishaps are alarmingly common, study finds

Nine out of 10 customers had an order go wrong, according to a recent survey by Circuit. More than half suspected a driver of eating their food.
Delivery driver at door
Photograph: Shutterstock

When it comes to food delivery, mistakes are often the rule rather than the exception.

That’s according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 customers, which found that a whopping nine out of 10 had a food or grocery delivery go awry. The study was conducted by Circuit, a route-planning app for delivery drivers.

Mistakes happen in any dining format. Usually those mistakes can be resolved quickly. But there is no immediate fix for a bad delivery order. According to Circuit, customers’ most common course of action was to ask for a refund. More than half, 52%, took that route.

Slightly fewer, 47%, simply reordered from the same restaurant or store. Four in 10 ordered from somewhere else.

Customers were also split on where to place the blame for an incorrect order. Thirty-nine percent filed a complaint with the delivery service; the same amount aired their grievance with the restaurant. And about a quarter (22%) complained directly to the delivery driver.

More than half (54%) of customers also said they suspected a delivery driver of eating their food before dropping it off. In another Circuit surveyeight in 10 delivery drivers admitted to doing this. 

The numbers should give pause to the many restaurants that have outsourced delivery to third parties like DoorDash and Uber Eats. Operators have little control or insight into the customer’s experience once their order has left the building in a courier’s car. And problems along the way can often come back to bite the restaurant.

When it comes to orders that were late, for instance, more than half (51%) of survey respondents said they would blame the restaurant rather than the delivery service or driver. And 66% said they would stop ordering from a restaurant or delivery app after a late delivery.

Some customers (namely, older people) were more bothered by tardy delivery than others. Half of baby boomers and 48% of Gen Xers expressed discontent over late delivery, compared to 41% of millennials and just 29% of Gen Zers. 

Despite their gripes, the vast majority of respondents were happy with the punctuality of the big delivery providers. More than 80% said they associated DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub with on-time delivery. Postmates was an outlier—just 55% said they felt the Uber subsidiary was timely. 

The findings add to other recent research suggesting that food delivery is often a less-than-stellar experience. It’s also expensive for the restaurant and the customer. Those factors are leading some restaurants to explore self-delivery rather than putting their reputation in the hands of a third party.

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