Nicholas Pfosi for The Boston Globe
By her own admission, Regan Cleminson, 27, has not mastered dinner. “Don’t judge me,” she said. But three or four times a week, or sometimes more, she gets food delivered. Sushi. Indian. Barbecue chicken salad.
The delivery guy from Cafe Mamtaz, in Southie, is so familiar with her order he comments when she tries something new. “Oh, you got a mango lassi,” he observed recently.
“It’s embarrassing,” Cleminson said, before rushing to her own defense. “It’s a more expensive way to eat, but do I want to spend an hour making dinner and cleaning the kitchen?”
High prices may be keeping some customers away from restaurants. But thanks to a certain chore-avoidant segment of the population — millennials, by and large — delivery is thriving.
Think of it as Meals on Wheels for the young and fit.
For the year ending June 2017, restaurant delivery sales hit $16.4 billion nationally, according to Bonnie Riggs, an analyst with the NPD Group, which projected that excluding pizza, the segment would grow by 20 percent from 2016 to 2022. Adults in their mid-30s and younger are driving the trend, she said.
Eating out — in your own home — is pricey, but as Uber addicts understand, seamless, cashless transactions have a way of making things feel free.
In Boston, the competition to deliver rice bowls, California rolls, and kale Caesar salads is intense, as UberEATS, Grubhub, DoorDash, Foodler, Caviar, and Postmates vie for (at least temporarily) lazy consumers and the fees to be made off them.
Despite alluring “free delivery with first order” offers and other come-ons, if you need a gig-economy worker to hustle a 6-inch Subway sandwich to your front door, it’s going to cost you.
As Riggs, the restaurant industry analyst, observed, “In some cases you are paying twice as much for an order, especially for fast food,” she said. “There is a minimum order, plus you have the [delivery] fee in some cases, and you pay a tip.”
Say you were deep into a “Game of Thrones” binge and you realized you needed 20 Chicken McNuggets and a large diet Coke. With tax, the order online comes to $7.66. But add the $1.79 DoorDash service fee, a $2 “small order fee,” and a suggested $2 tip, and suddenly the $7.66 meal costs $13.45.
It’s hard to argue that $13.45 for a $7.66 meal is a good deal, but — as is so often the case — people have their rationalizations. Among them:
Yes, technically, ordering in is more expensive, but the financial benefits of grocery shopping only kick in if you eat the food you buy and don’t let it rot in the fridge.
If you live alone, cooking for one is pricey and no fun.
Boston traffic makes grocery shopping and meal preparation after a full day of work and commuting too exhausting.
“By the time I get home, all I want to do is relax,” said Michael Campbell, 26. He works in human resources at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Quincy and lives in Medford, giving him a round-trip commute of two hours a day.
Some weeks he and his roommate get food delivered daily, he said, a story told by his refrigerator. “It has two looks. It’s either filled with takeout containers, or with ketchup.”
For some people, such is the perceived nuisance of cooking that on a recent weekday night two millennials were overheard deciding what to order from Grubhub — as they stood in line at Whole Foods in Brighton (to pay for a bottle of cold-pressed juice).
Perhaps eager to place their Grubhub order and beat the delivery person home, they declined to talk to a Globe reporter.
Delivery is surging at a time when leaving home is getting ever less appealing. Cultural changes wrought by big-screen TVs, smartphones, and the Internet have made onetime leisure activities — going to a ballgame, a movie, or a restaurant — seem less relaxing.
In Dorchester, Jon Salas, 28, delivery devotee, often prefers the ease of eating at home to the “commitment” involved in going out. “You have to make a plan and get ready and figure out the parking,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the camaraderie [of eating out with friends], but sometimes you don’t want to do something so formal and planned.”
Salas, a publicist, has some very on-trend food delivery issues:
1) He’s stressed because he hasn’t taken the time to enroll in the delivery firms’ loyalty programs, so he’s losing out on rewards. “I’ve got to get better about it,” he said, “but there’s so much to learn.”
2) In his former apartment, in Quincy, his street didn’t always show up on drivers’ GPS systems, forcing him to spend time giving elaborate directions.
3) Sometimes he gets extra food just to meet a restaurant’s minimum-order requirement. Usually, it’s dessert, even though he tries to be healthy. “It lets you rationalize it,” he said.
Meanwhile, as addictive as ordering in can be, some regulars want to wean themselves.
“When I look at my credit card history, it’s all Uber and takeout charges,” said Tara Tartarini, 26, a nurse in Boston.
Interviewed on the last day of August, she vowed to start cooking once summer ended, but then she uttered words to warm the corporate hearts of UberEATs et al. “On winter nights I know I’m going to want to get food delivered.”
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