10-minute food delivery: solving a non-existent problem but resetting service expectations?

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Remember ’30-minutes or your money back’ as a promise for pizza delivery? It was at a time when mobile apps were not the norm and worked through web bookings mostly. It disrupted service delivery in the category and forced all the players to follow suit. What was the problem it was trying to solve? While the consumer may have not expressed the need to have pizza delivered in 30-minutes, the latent problem was one of inordinate delays and no visibility of when food would be delivered. Remember, it was in an era when one could not track the delivery executive’s whereabouts through an app. It provided the user a mental clock to time the delivery.

It is an example of how service standards and consumer expectations have been reset through a solution – albeit to a problem which was not expressly stated. The digital age has further disrupted several categories and consumer expectations. When we see that a cab booked through an aggregator app is a few minutes away, we tend to get impatient and check our phones often. Such behaviour rubs off on other aspects of our life too. We expect everything to be instant. We can’t brook buffering of videos, slow loading of a web page or a slightly delayed financial transaction. We want to see the two blue ticks on our WhatsApp messages as soon as we send them. Brands like Paytm added a screen showing how fast a money transaction was.

As Santosh Desai says in this article:

All the advances that we have seen in this domain seem to be focused on reducing the gap between desire and its fulfilment. In the virtual world, this is easy — we can download a book seconds after the first thought about reading it strikes us. We can look up a fact or figure out which song is playing the moment we encounter a gap in our minds that needs to be filled. We pay people instantly with a flick of a fingertip and respond to people across the world in real-time as taking a day to reply to a mail feels horribly tardy. In every sense, we are gaining the ability to react as soon as we act.


So over time, we all tend to get impatient with everything and expect instant gratification in all aspects of our life. It may not be a welcome development as ‘slow living’ becomes a thing of the past. In this context, the 10-minute grocery or food delivery is catering to this impatience in some of us. Do all of us really need groceries delivered within 15-minutes? Definitely not. But I was told that a use case could be that of an emergency ingredient or grocery item. Some may use services such as Dunzo to send documents or parcels within the city – most would opt for less expensive (and slower) options such as a regular courier service. So such services are not for everyone or all use cases.

Zomato’s recent announcement about 10-minute food delivery caused a lot of outrage and commentary. The brand clarified on some of the concerns such as driver safety and food quality.

In my view, something has to give to make the 10-minute window work. The obvious ‘compromise’, if we can call it that is that the delivery time is applicable only for select, standardised, fast-moving items. While the brand claims that there is no compromise on any aspect I was reminded of this:

As far as driver (and general public’s) safety is concerned let us accept that it short distances for delivery (from neighbourhood stores or cloud kitchens) will mitigate the worry to an extent. The brand maybe seeking better utilisation of its fleet through shorter turnaround times so that more orders can be fulfilled in an hour.

Through this move, Zomato has also invited government and police scrutiny as they seek clarifications on the service offering. While they may eventually convince the authorities, after the initial furore I think the 10-minute food delivery (for select items, within 1-2 kms as clarified by Zomato) will become more ‘accepted’. Most people order ‘the usual’ when ordering in and they typically are fast-moving items for restaurants. Over time, consumer expectations will be reset gradually, catering first to the more impatient amongst us.

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