Timeline of online food delivery

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This is a timeline of online food delivery.

Big picture

Time period Key developments in online food delivery
1996–2001 This era is characterized by the rise of the Internet, the dotcom boom and the subsequent crash. Dotcom startups like Webvan, HomeGrocer, and Kozmo started online grocery delivery, but ended up closing in 2001 after the dotcom crash. Seamless is also founded.
2001–2010 GrubHub is founded. By the late 2000s, major pizza chains have created their own mobile applications and started doing 20-30% of their business online.[1]
2011–2015 With increased smartphone penetration, and the growth of both Uber and the sharing economy, food delivery startups start to receive more attention again. This era is associated with the founding of Caviar and Instacart.[2] By 2015, online ordering is about to overtake phone ordering.[3] But by September, online delivery still accounted for just about 3 percent of the 61 billion U.S. restaurant "visits" or transactions.[4]
2016 This period sees the shutdown of many online food ordering and delivery services, with the services engaged in food preparation seeing the hardest hits. SpoonRocket, Din, and Bento shut down, while services such as Sprig and Munchery undergo belt-tightening.
2017 DoorDash and Eat24 both partner with robot delivery companies (Starship Technologies and Marble respectively), and some observers see robot delivery as a necessary component of a sustainable and defensible business model for online food delivery.

Full timeline

Year Month and date (if available) Event type Organization type Details
1989 Launch Grocery delivery Peapod, which pioneers the online grocery delivery concept, is foundedby Andrew and Thomas Parkinson in Evanston, IL.[5]
1994 January Going online Fast food chain "PizzaNet" – Pizza Hut’s digital ordering hub, launches, and accepts the first-ever online order, a large pepperoni, mushroom and extra cheese pizza.[6]
1996 July Launch Grocery delivery Webvan, an online grocery delivery service, is founded by Louis Borders. It IPOs on November 5, 1999.[7]
1998 March Launch Multi-purpose delivery Kozmo, an online delivery services for many services (including groceries) founded.[8]
1999 December 1 Launch Online food ordering SeamlessWeb is founded in order to provide companies with a web-based system for ordering food from restaurants and caterers.[9]
2000 June 26 Merger/acquisition Grocery delivery Webvan buys out HomeGrocer.[10]
2001 April 12 Shutdown Multi-purpose delivery Kozmo shuts down.[11] The company had made profits in New York, Boston and San Francisco in December and secured $25 million in investments prior to shutdown.
2001 July Shutdown Grocery delivery Webvan shuts down.[12]
2001 Going online Fast food chain Papa John's pizza launches online ordering.[13]
2002 March Going online Grocery store Safeway begins delivering online grocery orders.[14]
2004 Launch Online food ordering GrubHub, an online restaurant delivery service, is founded in 2004 by two web developers, Matt Maloney and Mike Evans, who were looking for an alternative to paper menus.[15]
2007 August Launch (subsidiary) Grocery delivery AmazonFresh initially offers home grocery delivery to residents of the Seattle suburb of Mercer Island in an invitation-only beta test in August 2007.[16]
2008 March 1 Launch Online food ordering Eat24hours, an online restaurant delivery service, is founded.[17]
2009 January Launch Catering service ZeroCater, a startup for delivering catered food to businesses, is founded.[18][19]
2009 July Product enhancement Fast food chain Pizza Hut launches a free iPhone application today that offers mobile ordering and games to play while one waits for delivery.[20]
2009 August Launch Catering service Roaming Hunger, a website for finding food trucks, launches the first website dedicated to booking catering from food trucks at any location.[21]
2011 March Launch Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery Munchery, a service that allows people to order food online from professional chefs and have it delivered, launches in private beta. The company was formally founded four months ago, in November 2010.[22]
2012 Launch Meal kit delivery Blue Apron launches. The company delivers meal kits to people for home food preparation.[23][24]
2012 February Launch Online food ordering and delivery DoorDash, which would later become a Y-Combinator summer 2013 food delivery company, issues its first delivery.[25]
2012 July 1 Launch Online food ordering and delivery Instacart, which offers an app that lets users order groceries and delivers them, is founded.[26]
2012 September 12 Launch Online food ordering and delivery Caviar launches, and starts off offering delivery in the San Francisco area from high-end restaurants rated 4-stars or higher on Yelp.[27]
2013 April Launch Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery Sprig, a delivery service for healthy meals, launches in San Francisco.[28]
2013 June Launch Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery SpoonRocket, a Y-Combinator-backed company for delivering fast food meals, is founded.[29]
2013 June Expansion Grocery delivery AmazonFresh expands out to Los Angeles.[30] It would later expand out to San Francisco by December 2013.
2013 August Merger/acquisition Online food ordering Seamless and GrubHub merge.[31]
2014 August 4 Merger/acquisition Online food ordering and delivery Square acquires Caviar.[32]
2015 February 10 Merger/acquisition Online food ordering Yelp acquires Eat24.[17]
2015 February 18 Launch (subsidiary) Online food ordering and delivery Uber launches into the food delivery space with UberEATS, starting off in Barcelona.[33]
2015 April 16 Market size Online food ordering and delivery Online food ordering business in India witnessing exponential growth. Organized food business reaches worth US$48 billion, of which food delivery is US$15 billion.[34] Several startups rose in 2015 including Zomato, TinyOwl, Swiggy, Innerchef, Food Panda, The First Meal and Fresh Menu with focus on apps.[35]
2015 April 28 Launch Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery Prepared food delivery startup Maple launches in New York City. Like Sprig and SpoonRocket, Maple handles all aspects, from preparation to ordering to delivery.[36]
2015 October 5 Partnership Online food ordering and delivery Tapingo announces launch of large scale cooperation with Aramark to expand its services into many university campuses across the United States
2016 March 15 Shutdown Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery San Francisco Bay Area-focused on-demand delivery service SpoonRocket shuts down after failing to raise capital to continue operations, despite achieving unit economics profitability. It says it will transition customers to competitor Spring, which is offering SpoonRocket users a $10 discount.[37][38][39] The next day, it is announced that Brazilian food chain iFood is acquiring SpoonRocket for its technology.[40][41]
2016 October 11 Acquisition (failed) Online food ordering and delivery Bloomberg reports that Square tried to sell Caviar (with Uber and GrubHub as potential suitors) but failed to agree on a price with either buyer, with Square proposing a price tag of $100 million. Caviar loses money, but Square (a public company) does not provide information on the extent of its losses.[42]
2016 October 25 Shutdown Meal kit delivery Recipe delivery service Din shuts down after failing to become profitable. Despite achieving profitability on a unit economics basis, it failed to make enough of a margin to offset operational overhead.[43]
2016 December 9 Shutdown Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery Bento, a delivery service that provides pan-Asian cuisine, shuts down. Despite achieving unit economics profitability, the service has to shut down after running out of money and failing to raise more.[44] Upon shutdown, the co-founders share more information on the company's trajectory, struggles, mistakes, and difficult decision to shut down.[45] Prior to the shutdown, the company transitioned from high burn to profitability by transitioning from an on-demand delivery model to a catering model.[46]
2017 March 1 Acquisition Online food ordering and delivery Square, owner of online food ordering and delivery service Caviar, acquires online food ordering and delivery service OrderAhead. Simultaneously, Caviar launches a takeout service, a feature taken from its acquisition of OrderAhead.[47][48]
2017 March 21 Robot delivery Online food ordering and delivery DoorDash rolls out six delivery robots for use in California, following trials in Redwood City.[49] The delivery is in partnership with Starship Technologies, which is also partnering with courier service Postmates.[50]
2017 April 12 Robot delivery Online food ordering and delivery San Francisco-based startup Marble announces a partnership with Yelp's Eat24 where Marble's robots deliver food for partner restaurants, initially geographically limited to some parts of San Francisco. The robots are maintained by Marble, and initially have both a human chaperone and a remote person monitoring the robot.[51]
2017 May 8 Shutdown Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery Prepared food delivery startup Maple, that had raised over $25 million, shuts down operations in New York City (the only place it had been running). Its technology would live on and be used by UK-based food delivery startup Deliveroo.[52][53][54]
2017 May 26 Shutdown Food preparation, online food ordering, and delivery Sprig shuts down after several months of struggling. Prior to shutting down, Sprig had closed its Chicago business, started using Caviar to deliver food, and started serving food to walk-in customers. The company had raised $56.7 million over its lifetime.[55][56]
2017 June 16 Acquisition Amazon announces it is acquiring Whole Foods for $13.4 billion. The move is seen as potentially affecting food delivery, combining a huge physical store presence with an online delivery network.[57][58]
2017 June 29 IPO Meal kit delivery Blue Apron IPOs at a price of $10 per share, selling 3 million shares in the IPO.[59][60] The price falls to about $6 within a few weeks, with Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods and its patent for prepared food kits cited as reasons.[61][62]


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