When I were a lad, I don’t recall there being any option to have hot food delivered to one’s dwelling – well, it might have been available to the aristocracy but, due to an error of fate, I was born into the forelock-tugging classes. Food was prepared and consumed in the home, except for very rare occasions: I think I now eat out more often in a typical week than I did in a typical year as a child.
I remember when fast food first came, in the form of KFC, to the provincial Kent town where the majority of my childhood was spent. My mother did not approve; and I suspect still doesn’t!
So deprived were we in those far off days that fizzy pop was brought to the children (and adults) of Sittingbourne on the back of a small lorry by a man (or shadowy organisation) known as Mr Bacon, much like van-based ice cream continues to arrive in the summer months. This seemed entirely normal at the time, but now I wonder if carbonated beverages were truly unavailable from the rather basic supermarkets of those days…
At some stage, the range of fast food increased and some enterprising providers would bring it to your door for a small consideration. I remember working in Madrid in the 90s where a whole range of firms named teleX (for suitable X) would, in response to a phone call and the promise of some pesetas, deliver X via a young lad on a moped. X could be any type of meal or snack: from a sandwich up.
The world continued in this way for another decade or two, with individual food providers organising their own delivery service. But then, in the last few years, Deliveroo has appeared and attempted to consolidate the provision of food delivery and, one assumes, make a shed load of money by doing so. Food outlets, or those not part of a major chain with the commercial muscle to resist this interloper, were forced to use its services, or risk losing sales to their competitors. All was good for the shadowy figures pulling the Deliveroo strings, but history teaches us that an empire will often invite an upstart seeking to overthrow the current ruler (or be riven by internal strife). Into the Deliveroo puppetmasters’ rosy world has come the young pretender: Uber Eats. BTW: I’m not entirely sure that a brand name which loosely translates to “over eats” is giving quite the right message during a soi-disant obesity epidemic.
I like to imagine that the riders of Deliveroo and Uber Eats are rivals in the style of the Sharks and Jets from West Side Story, though I’ve yet to hear any music of the quality of Bernstein’s arising from this conflict. In my mind, violence simmers below the surface of every encounter in food outlet or street: with tyres slashed and locks sabotaged. I see each new rider as a “made man” (or woman or LGBTQIA+ equivalent) learning their lessons from Sean Connery’s unexpectedly Scottish (sorry, Shcottish) cop in The Untouchables, “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.”
I became convinced that my fantasy may be close to the truth when I saw a rider in Deliveroo uniform carrying an Uber Eats delivery box. Was he a a Deliveroo rider who had take out a rival and claimed his box as booty? Or had an Uber Eats rider flayed one of the enemy and was wearing his skin, like a Scythian warrior, to boast of his prowess in battle?
Despite the now deadly, if secret, war being waged between the ground troops of the two delivery services, I believe they will still form temporary alliances to tackle the common, four-wheeled foe. The Domino’s Pizza delivery driver may only be able to offer one type of “food”, but he or she does come armed with a car. I assume they have orders to pick off any enemy rider that is found separated from the pack – or certainly their driving when I try and cycle past one of their local nests strongly suggests they have standing instructions to eliminate any cyclist (regardless of affiliation)!