Food delivery service usage surges among students

Apps like Postmates and DoorDash have been popularized by the pandemic

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By Evan Sherman

Food delivery apps such as DoorDash and Postmates allow users to have access to nearly any restaurant imaginable – all at their fingertips.

Ben Wieland and Avery Gathright

When restaurants across Kansas closed their doors to dine-in customers in early spring, students looking for a temporary, part-time job during lockdown and families looking for safe ways to eat turned to food delivery apps like Postmates, DoorDash and UberEats. Even six months after the state’s first lockdown, the appeal of these apps persists.One student who took advantage of the initial surge in delivery app orders was then-senior Nico Gatapia. Now a freshman at the University of Kansas, Gatapia spent his final months at Mill Valley working as a Postmates delivery driver — the job’s flexibility stood out to Gatapia as he attended school remotely and counted down the days until graduation.

“I needed easy money, and Postmates allowed drivers to pick their own hours,” Gatapia said. “I didn’t want to commit to having an actual job, because I was leaving for college soon.”

Throughout March and April, Gatapia routinely worked with his navigator, then-junior Molly Smith, to make evening deliveries. 

An option to have delivered food be left at your door contact free has been available for years, but has recently garnered popularity due to COVID-19. (By Evan Sherman)

The pair would meet up and drive to hotspots in Lenexa and Olathe during the dinner hour to deliver. The pay was inconsistent — $10 an hour on a slow day, but typically closer to $20 — and Gatapia described his income as, like so many service jobs, “at the mercy of how generous my tips were.”

While the pair never considered delivering for Postmates as anything more than a part-time gig, Smith felt that delivering was a refreshing way to get out of the house and safely break up the monotony of lockdown. 

“Delivering was a really fun way to find new places that I’ve never been before that were within a 30-minute drive of my house,” Smith said. “It was also a good way to get out of the house, because COVID-19 kept my family at home and it was nice to get out.”

I needed easy money, and Postmates allowed drivers to pick their own hours.”

— Postmates driver Nico Gatapia

Delivery apps also provide a vital service to families like senior Emily Hertel’s who want the convenience and variety of restaurant food but are wary of the risks of eating out in the midst of Kansas’s spike in COVID-19 cases.

Hertel’s family, which includes parents who work in healthcare, never ordered through delivery apps before the pandemic. Now, they order dinner via DoorDash and UberEats at least once each week.

 

To Hertel, the reduced risk is the main selling point for mobile orders.

“I think the apps are good to keep people from going inside restaurants and eating there, because that is obviously a risky thing during a pandemic,” Hertel said. “If you have the extra money, it’s worth it. It allows us to have a nice family meal and not worry about going out and being in contact with other people.”

Even beyond the pandemic, Hertel believes there are other benefits to be reaped from having family meals delivered straight to her door.

“It’s also really nice just to not have to go out and get food,” Hertel said. “My family loves to just eat our meals together and watch TV.”

Ironically, though, neither Smith nor Gatapia orders from the delivery services they drove for during the spring. Smith believes it’s “just easier to get food for myself,” while Gatapia finds the delivery fee too expensive — in fact, the only time he opened the Postmates app was to check if any special discounts were offered that day, because reduced prices meant more delivery opportunities.

However, all three can agree that delivery apps have helped them come together with friends and family.

“It just brings us closer,” Hertel said. “That’s been nice.”

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