Meal Delivery Business: The History and Evolution

The way people eat is undergoing significant changes. Around 20 years ago, restaurant-quality meal delivery was mainly restricted to pizza. Now, the food delivery industry has become a global market worth over $150 billion, which has tripled since 2017. 

Introducing user-friendly apps and tech-supported delivery networks have made healthy prepared meal delivery a significant sector. In addition, the early lockdowns and physical distancing measures during the pandemic have contributed significantly to its growth, as delivery became a lifeline for the struggling restaurant industry. As a result, it is expected to become a permanent feature in the dining industry.

“73% Of Millennials In Australia Order Their Meals Through Food Delivery Apps” ~Source.

Since meal delivery services are becoming the lifesaver for people with no time to cook, there are significant reasons to believe that they will be a part of our immediate and near future. 

This blog will walk down memory lane and explore the history and evolution of modern food delivery worldwide.

Rome Was Not Built In a Day

Contrary to popular belief, the history of meal delivery services dates back to ancient Rome. The Romans, like us, valued the convenience of having food delivered to them. So they called their fast food restaurants “Thermopolium,” where they served hot meals from large clay pots at a counter, much like how fast food is served today. 

According to Smithsonian Magazine, over 80 of these “fast food restaurants” have been discovered in sites such as Pompeii. The Thermopolium allowed ancient Romans to have a hot, ready-to-eat meal on the go. With limited access to hot food, the Thermopolium was highly popular.

The Start Of Milk Deliveries

Technically, the first food item to be delivered to our homes was milk. This service started around 1785 because the refrigerator was yet to be invented to keep the milk from going rancid.

Access to fresh milk meant owning a dairy cow. As industrialisation took place, people moved from rural areas to cities and bought milk from local farmers. Daily deliveries became necessary because milk is perishable and refrigeration limited.

Homemade Meals Delivered In Time

Approximately 125 years ago – around the 1890s -India created the dabbawala meal delivery system in bustling metropolitan areas like Mumbai when the country was under British rule. With the growing number of urban workers, the dabbawala system relied on delivery personnel known as dabbawalas to bring meals directly to people’s workplaces. This sophisticated delivery system has evolved with time. For example, it now utilises text messaging and email for people to access the service.

The Era of Fast Food Delivery In The 1950s

The 1950s saw the widespread popularity of TV. With more households owning a television, people tended to stay home and have meals while watching their favourite programs, leading to a decrease in the restaurant business. 

To counter this, many restaurants introduced takeout and delivery options, with pizza delivery a prominent example. This idea became popularised by soldiers who had developed a taste for Italian cuisine while serving overseas.

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The Emergence Of Food Trucks in The 1960s

The idea of food trucks has a long history, initially serving as a means of offering convenient meals and snacks to workers at job sites. However, they were once referred to as “roach coaches” and had a reputation for poor sanitation. 

Over time, food trucks have transformed into a unique way to enjoy restaurant-quality food in the great outdoors. Starting a food truck is a favourable option for aspiring restaurateurs, as it requires much lower startup costs.

The Advent of Online Food Ordering In 2004

In addition to meal kits, innovative players in the food delivery industry are taking convenience to the next level by providing restaurant logistics services. In Australia, the meal delivery sector was first established by Suppertime Lunches in 1985. Since then, several major players have emerged and faded, ultimately paving the way for delivering healthy prepared meals directly to people’s homes and offices.

The Trend of Healthy Prepared Meals Delivery System

Pre-prepared healthy meal delivery system refers to a service where healthy, freshly made meals are delivered to customers’ doors. Professional chefs and nutritionists often create these meals. They are designed to meet specific dietary requirements, such as low-carb, gluten-free, or vegetarian. 

The meals are usually pre-cooked and packaged, ready to be reheated and consumed. This service provides a convenient and healthy alternative to fast food or cooking from scratch. People often favour those with busy lifestyles who value healthy eating.

While meal kits initially redefined convenient eating, 30 minutes in the kitchen preparing and cleaning is still a lot of time. As a result, the meal delivery service evolved yet again.

Due to the pandemic, people are adopting healthier lifestyles and dietary habits. However, busy work schedules often make takeout meals more convenient than cooking at home. With the option of healthy, pre-prepared meals delivered to their doorstep, the reliance on eating out has dramatically reduced, freeing time and effort.

Final Takeaway

The meal delivery business has a rich history, from ancient Rome’s fast-food restaurants to today’s sophisticated food delivery systems. The evolution of meal delivery has met the changing needs of consumers, from convenience to health consciousness. With new players in the market and technological advancements, the meal delivery business continues to evolve and provide convenient and healthy eating options.

manu bhadouria

I'm Manmohan Bhadouria, a digital marketer with a strong SEO background. I love writing blogs and stories, and exploring new places and adventures is my passion. I have a soft spot for all kinds of animals.

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