James Walker: Complain if food delivery service leaves a bad taste

I'm often asked what inspired me to set up Resolver. It won't surprise you to learn it was a bout of spectacularly awful customer service when my boiler packed in and left me and the family without heating for a month. In winter.
Food delivery is big business.Food delivery is big business.
Food delivery is big business.

Years later, I still encounter spectacularly awful customer service. One of the fastest growing areas of complaint that I see involves food delivery. If you’ve popped down to a local takeout recently, chances are you’ll have seen delivery drivers waiting to collect food for their customers. They have my sympathy. With margins so low, delivery companies work their drivers hard and it can be a bit of a thankless job.

But delivery companies can be useless too. I pre-ordered a meal for the family last weekend with three hours’ notice. The delivery company accepted the order and took my money. But 30 minutes after the allotted delivery time, no food was in sight. They then cancelled the order due to a lack of drivers. By this point it was 11.30pm and it was too late to get an alternative.

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I then spent a very angry hour using the live chat function of the delivery company’s website trying to get them to address why they failed with my order. It was frustrating. When I spoke to the team at Resolver, most of them had a similar story to tell about delivery firms. Our users have been making a huge number of complaints, from buck-passing to restaurants, wrong orders, and misleading information.

In total, more than 37,000 complaints about takeaways and deliveries have been made since I set up Resolver, with complaints up 86 per cent last year. A lot of these cases have been driven by delivery issues. Too many.

So, lots of us are going hungry of an evening. While this isn’t the end of the world, it is indicative of a serious problem with this rapidly expanding industry. It’s vital that we let businesses know where they’re getting it wrong. If you’ve had a bad experience, you can let the business know at www.resolver.co.uk/takeaways. As for me, I’m still supporting my local restaurants – but I’m picking up the occasional takeout treat in person.

And it’s not just food that doesn’t turn up that is the problem. Some takeouts are a real treat, coming from your favourite branded restaurants. These meals can set you back upwards of £30 – but you’re paying for the factors you associate with the brand. Maybe it’s a nice open- plan kitchen, loving care and attention to ingredients, a special twist on an old favourite dish.

But lately, some delivery companies have invested in “dark kitchens”. This makes it sound like they’re based in Mordor. In fact, a dark kitchen is a nondescript kitchen far away from your lovely restaurant but run by their staff solely to provide takeout food. The same hygiene standards apply, but I believe there’s a big difference in ordering food from the restaurant you’re picturing and food that’s been prepared in a shipping container under a railway arch.

Ultimately, the biggest complaint we receive at Resolver is about cancelled deliveries. I’m working with some delivery companies to help them address these problems and understand how annoying a last-minute cancellation is. Some are being reluctant to admit the problem. So vote with your feet. Make a complaint if you are left hungry. It only takes a minute and you can help me stamp out delivery dodgers.

James Walker is the founder of online complaint-resolution service Resolver.co.uk