During the period when ridesharing giants such as Uber, Lyft, etc., are massively expanding their rideshare and food delivery services throughout the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the ridesharing demand to standstill. According to a recent rideshare driver earnings survey, the majority of the rideshare driver’s income was down by 80% during the outbreak, and many drivers are quitting or driving much less as the rideshare requests were down by 50%.
On the contrary, the food and grocery delivery businesses have seen a tremendous growth opportunity as these services have incorporated contactless delivery practices such as electronic payments and delivery of food/groceries to customer’s doors among others. During March and April of 2020 when shelter-in-place orders were in place due to the pandemic, food delivery services such as Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash, etc., played a key role in helping restaurants generate at least some stream of revenue to keep their businesses afloat when dine-in services were suspended.
Later, when the restaurants were open with partial capacity, the food delivery services were still in demand as many people did not prefer to go back to restaurants. Demand for grocery delivery business such as Instacart, Walmart Grocery, Shipt, etc., have exploded as they have facilitated the American people to shelter-in-place and yet have their essential groceries ordered with a tap of their smartphone and have them delivered to their doorstep with a no-contact delivery service.
Due to the slump in ridesharing demand, gig workers from Uber and Lyft platforms have also started delivering food and groceries on other plaTforms such as Instacart, Grubhub, among others to make a living.
Due to the increased demand of online delivery services, many companies have added thousands of drivers to their platforms providing a potential employment opportunity for those who are unemployed during the pandemic.
For example, Instacart has added 300,000 drivers during the pandemic increasing their drivers by 100%. These gig workers, who are considered essential workers during the pandemic, are also responsible for helping local businesses stay afloat as well as helping the public stay safe at home.
While the coronavirus cases are surging again across the U.S., the pandemic seems like it is far from over. Some states and cities are partially shutting down certain businesses again; other states and/or cities could follow a similar course in the next couple of weeks to get the outbreak under control. People would want to be extra cautious with the rise of infections as we enter into what is called a deadly winter.
The online delivery businesses that have experienced a high demand in the recent months may be here to stay, and they are also helping multiple businesses during the pandemic. Gig workers on ridesharing, food, and grocery delivery services are playing a key role towards providing lifeline services to the community by serving in frontlines, and their need is going to be higher and important during the next few months.
Godavarthy is an assistant professor and Challey Institute Faculty Fellow at North Dakota State University.