A new way to stop your food delivery order getting cold – or pinched

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Key points

  • Online food ordering and delivery platforms have developed from an almost unknown service to a $1.3 billion industry over the past decade in Australia. 
  • Thermal metal lockers are the latest development to cater for the online food delivery boom. 
  • Foodifox has installed the lockers at 36 apartment and commercial buildings across Melbourne. 

You won’t find post or parcels in new metal lockers being installed in the foyers of apartment and office buildings around Melbourne, but the lockers could help you satisfy your hunger pangs.

The thermal lockers are the latest development in the online food delivery boom.

Foodifox co-founder Tim Pagram with one of the company’s food delivery lockers at UniLodge in Elizabeth Street in Melbourne’s CBD. Credit: Joe Armao

Able to keep food warm for up to three hours, they are widespread in China and have been installed in 36 buildings in Melbourne so far.

“There are growing tensions inside buildings when it comes to food delivery,” Tim Pagram, co-founder of locker company Foodifox, says.

“Lockers work from a supply side, from the delivery driver getting into the building and delivering, and from the end user ensuring food security and being able to pick up the food when convenient.”

Pagram says the lockers help delivery people, who work under tight time constraints and have to get food to customers as quickly as possible when apartment and office buildings are increasingly difficult to navigate.

“They are hard to get into and once [delivery people] are in they are wandering around lobbies or large foyers, which can cause tension between other tenants and residents,” he says.

“From the end users’ perspective, they are really up for food delivery, but they are not enjoying the logistics as they have to, at times, get dressed, come down and quite often there are half a dozen food delivery people wandering around.”

Pagram also says theft of food orders is a risk the lockers help avert.

“The delivery driver is leaving it in the lobby or with the concierge and there is no guarantee it will make it to the correct person,” he says. “The concierge is not really retained to nurse someone’s pad Thai on a Friday night.”

Pagram says potential concerns about food safety have been alleviated by a mechanism which locks customers out after two hours, and food still tastes good after sitting in the lockers.

The Foodifox lockers have been installed in 36 Melbourne buildings. Credit: Joe Armao

Online food delivery continues to grow around the country. Research from industry analysts IbisWorld, published in August, shows online food ordering and delivery platforms have developed from an almost unknown service to a $1.3 billion industry over the past decade.

Foodifox’s lockers are being used by food delivery companies HungryPanda and Fantuan. The company’s plan is to expand beyond Melbourne and to sign up more food delivery companies. Industry giants Uber Eats and DoorDash are on its target list.

The lockers are paid for by the delivery companies rather than building owners.

In China, the country’s two biggest food delivery companies use food lockers. Beijing-based Meituan has distributed 1000 smart lockers around the country while Ele.me has announced it will install 3000 lockers.

A DoorDash spokeswoman said the company did not use heated lockers anywhere in the world at this stage.

An Uber Eats spokesman said it was instead focused on improving the delivery bags its drivers and cyclists use. New bags offer more space and greater insulation.

“We know how important it is for eaters to have their food arrive at the right temperature and well presented,” the spokesman said. “We also consistently hear from restaurants that food quality is their No.1 priority.”

Student Gaurav Harichandan started using Foodifox’s lockers in his apartment building last month and says he no longer has problems with food getting cold or being stolen.

“Once my driver came to deliver the food and I said, ‘Can you leave it at reception’ and after that when I came down the food was gone,” he says. “I filed a complaint and I got a refund, but for that day I was starving”.

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