Niche Food Sites Hungry for Disruption

We Deliver

Is there anything that can’t be delivered nowadays? A few years ago, “delivery” was only synonymous with pizza, mail, and Chinese take-out. The past few years, months, and even weeks have given the term a whole new meaning.

Take announcements since January as indications that delivery services as we have known them are changing: Delivery.com now offers personal picnic packages to hungry people in Central Park and GrubHub has decided to get more serious about their ice cream deliveries. Not only that, but behind the scenes of the food delivery business, there are numerous partnerships that help drive traffic to several of the largest delivery sites.

A year ago, Eat24 and Delivery.com became integrated with Yelp, while UrbanSpoon uses GrubHub/Seamless for its delivery orders. One of the differences between many of these larger sites is that they focus their restaurant partnerships or delivery services on different geographic areas. While this could be a source of delivery service loyalty for a Nebraska resident, a customer in New York, for example, might not see a noticeable difference between sites. That’s where the smaller, niche sites come in. And boy, do Compete PRO traffic numbers reflect consumers’ interest in them:

Delivery Sites Unique Visitors

Why is the attention on sites like Munchery or Postmates instead of just on the multi-million visitor giants? Well, consider that Munchery has donated over 130,000 meals through its “Get a Dinner, Give a Dinner” program – every time you place a dinner order, Munchery donates a meal to someone in need through a local food bank. And Postmates? Well, they recently announced they will deliver not just food, but virtually anything customers order.

Despite the fact that the higher traffic sites haven’t been gaining visitors as rapidly as several of their smaller competitors, people’s interest in food delivery is definitely not shrinking, nor are larger sites sitting idly by as smaller sites overtake them. Take the search term “Chinese food delivery” as an example of how sites like Eat24 still have a competitive advantage over smaller sites – a keyword search reveals that 28.30% of search referral volume for that search goes to Eat24, most closely followed by Yelp (12.14%), Delivery.com (10.70%), and GrubHub (8.42%). And Eat24 owes none of its search referral volume (for this term, at least) to paid search. Smaller sites have a long way to go before being able to match the natural reach of sites like Eat24.

That being said, larger sites have a lot they can learn from smaller competitors. For a delivery site struggling to distinguish itself from its large competitors, the answer seems to be offering something other sites aren’t – delivery that cuts down on carbon emissions, two free root beers for anyone who orders a pizza on a Tuesday after 5 PM, delivery people who all wear fake facial hair, etc. It looks like it’s no longer enough to cover more physical territory than others in the industry – it’s far more important to offer something unique that sticks in a customer’s mind. We live in a time where disruption is spanning across all markets, including food delivery. Where will these changes take us next?

About Gabriel Sehringer:
Gabriel is a summer intern on the Business Development team at Millward Brown Digital. During all other seasons, he can be found on the UMass Amherst campus, where he studies Marketing and French. Connect with him on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.