A Foodora courier is pictured as they pick up an order for delivery from a restaurant in Toronto, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

Food delivery services brace for COVID-19 with non-contact drop-offs and sanitizer

Feature will allow customers to request orders be left at front desks, with security or on doorsteps

When users of the Chanmao Inc. food delivery service log into the company’s app next week, they’ll notice a new option: non-contact drop-offs.

The feature — triggered by user demand and a desire to combat the recent outbreak of a novel form of coronavirus — will allow customers to request orders be left at front desks, with building security or on a doorstep.

“For the past couple of weeks, a lot of our customers have been writing in the notes saying, could you leave the order at the front of the door or could you leave it at the security or can I meet you outside instead?” said Ivy Chen, the co-founder of Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Chanmao, which services the Greater Toronto Area, Waterloo, Hamilton, Halifax, Edmonton and Winnipeg.

The no-contact service is part of a slew of precautions food delivery companies operating in Canada have undertaken amid the outbreak, which has infected at least 60 Canadians and more than one hundred thousand more globally.

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With increasing numbers of Canadians working from home or self-quarantining after travelling to coronavirus hotspots abroad, delivery apps are bracing themselves for high volumes of orders, while facing pressure to up their safety protocols given that their couriers are handling food and coming into contact with customers.

Chanmao decided to make health and safety materials available to all of its couriers in the wake of the new coronavirus known as COVID-19, Chen said.

“We made sure all of our delivery drivers have hand sanitizers with them in the car, so that when they’re getting the food from the restaurant or after they finished a delivery, they are keeping good hygiene,” Chen said.

Latex gloves are hand for couriers to pick up from the company too.

At Uber Technologies Inc.’s Eats service, when couriers logged into their app to begin accepting orders in recent weeks, they were met with a message reminding them to wash their hands frequently, disinfect their vehicles often and if they feel sick, to stay home.

The company is also encouraging employees to make use of its Law Enforcement Response Team, which runs a 24/7 portal that helps with safety and public health concerns encountered while using the platform.

Uber has yet to detect any coronavirus cases spread through its users or couriers, but put restrictions on employee travel to China, northern Italy, Iran and South Korea.

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Meanwhile, competitor Foodora Inc. has set up a committee to streamline instructions and implement processes ensuring the health and safety of its couriers and customers.

“Our teams have already issued a series of informed measures, including work-travel restrictions to affected regions and a work-from-home policy for those who’ve travelled recently to areas with outbreaks,” spokesperson Sadie Weinstein wrote in an emailed statement to The Canadian Press.

“We’ll continue to monitor the development of COVID-19 and implement further measures, if deemed necessary.”

Food service numbers were down in China in January, when the virus hit the country hard, but its delivery data was up, said Vince Sgabellone, a food industry analyst at the NPD Group.

It’s hard to tell if that spike was caused by COVID-19 because delivery services in the country were seeing immense demand and growth before the virus.

Whether the same trends will be replicated Canada is also unknown, Sgabellone said.

“It is still very early going to suggest that anyone has or will make changes in the way they will frequent any retail outlets or food service,” he said.

“I have not heard anything. My customers are telling me it is business as usual and they are being careful and diligent as always.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

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