An image of a food delivery person handing over pizza boxes to a customer in an article on who should pay for damaged food deliveries

Who should pay for damaged food deliveries?

The Covid-19 pandemic forced several food businesses to exclusively offer takeout through delivery or curbside pickup – a trend the majority of consumers seemed to prefer. This shift in consumer behaviour due to health and safety concerns resulted in a massive increase in online food deliveries. As the revenue from food deliveries is expected to soar to $0.91 trillion in 2023, the benefits of continuing to offer this service are clear. 

More so, research indicates the meal delivery market will have 2.64 billion users four years from now – something restaurants, fast food chains, and delivery firms should take note of. 

That said, one factor that needs to be considered is the issue of damaged food deliveries. The burning question is who should shoulder the responsibility for these cases: the drivers that delivered the food, the app that processed the transaction, or the restaurants that prepared it?

Between 2020 and 2024, the compound annual growth rate of the online food delivery industry is expected to be around 7.5%. In order to capitalise on this, restaurants and ordering platforms must decide who is held liable for damaged items and what the share of responsibility should be.

The problem of damaged goods

It is difficult to give an exact number of damaged food deliveries, as it will vary from country to country. However, research shows in the US alone, approximately 8% of deliveries are reported as “damaged”. Essentially, this means when customers receive their order, they find some parts have been compromised, which may include spilled or melted items. 

In some cases, this could be due to improper packaging, or it may be the fault of delivery riders who have mishandled products during transit. There is also a chance restaurants may have cooked or prepared menu items improperly, leading to an unsatisfactory product being delivered to customers. 

When customers encounter damaged food deliveries, their reaction is usually one of frustration. They expect to receive a product that has been properly prepared and delivered intact. Damaged deliveries often lead to customer dissatisfaction and potentially lost revenue for the restaurant or delivery firm involved, as consumers are likely to request a meal replacement or refund.

Another significant negative outcome from damaged food deliveries is subsequent in-app reviews. These reviews can be seen by other potential customers and could influence their decision to order.

Who takes responsibility?

It is important to note restaurants already have to pay a hefty commission to the delivery firm as a middleman, and so they expect food deliveries to be handled with care and expertise. In some cases, businesses may avoid responsibility if they can prove the food leaves the establishment in good condition. While restaurants are responsible for checking and monitoring that all food items are properly handled before departure, they are unable to control the process after the food has left.

Delivery firms usually have strict policies on damaged goods: many require users to contact customer service or take a photo of the item before it can be reported as damaged. They may also have insurance in place so customers can receive refunds or replacements if their orders arrive with any issues. As such, these companies may be more willing to shoulder liability for these cases, especially if it is proven that an issue arose due to mishandling.

An image of a restaurant worker or check packing fast food boxes, takeout containers, fast food packaging, into the delivery bag of a third-party delivery service driver in an article on who should pay for damaged food deliveries

Is there a right answer to who should pay?

Ultimately, it is difficult to pin the blame on one person regarding payment for damaged food delivery. All parties involved can share responsibility in ensuring orders are handled properly and arrive to customers in good condition. 

Restaurants should check products before they leave the premises. Furthermore, they must accept and recognise any risks to the quality of the final product when they offer delivery services. By offering customers alternative options or compensation if their order arrives in disrepair, restaurant owners can avoid some of the dissatisfaction accompanying damaged food deliveries.

Meanwhile, delivery services should have proper safety procedures in place and be able to provide reimbursements if necessary. This shows customers they are serious about providing a good service and taking responsibility for any issues. For example, an online delivery app may offer customers a full refund if their order arrives in damaged condition, or provide an alternate meal of the same value.

Customers should also monitor their orders and contact customer service immediately if they find any issues. All these efforts can help reduce incidents of damage to food items during delivery.

How food businesses resolved the problem of damaged food deliveries

In the past, businesses have dealt with damaged food deliveries in various ways. Some opt to provide replacements or refunds for damaged orders upon arrival, while others offer additional discounts or free items as compensation. Some restaurants go beyond this and ensure their delivery services handle the product carefully and securely by using additional packaging, such as bubble wrap, insulated bags, ice packs, special containers, and other protective measures. 

Additionally, some businesses have implemented quality checks to ensure orders are up to the standards expected by customers. This involves inspecting meals for temperature, freshness, and portion size so consumers only receive the best quality food.

An image of a restaurant worker or chef packing a meal into takeout containers, fast food boxes, fast food packaging, in an article on who should pay for damaged food deliveries

Did these methods work?

In many cases, these methods have been successful. By providing replacements or refunds for damaged orders, ensuring quality in food preparation, and using preventive measures, businesses are able to retain customer loyalty and trust. Research shows customers are more likely to return to a business that provides quality service and compensates them for any issues. These methods also help to reduce customer complaints and minimise the risk of negative reviews.

So, who is ultimately responsible for damaged food deliveries? The answer is – it depends. Vendors, which includes food delivery providers and restaurants alike, must take proactive steps to ensure their orders are handled with care and arrive intact, while drivers must ensure they are treating orders with respect during transit.

When implemented properly, these methods can help businesses maintain customer loyalty and satisfaction. Doing so may even help them achieve better brand recognition and, of course, more sales.