For a Mega City like Lagos, waiting for a food delivery is a test of your patience, time, and an invitation to anger.
“I would say that it has been traumatic and has been a huge test of my patience. Food delivery is terrible. That’s if you ask me,” Femi Adetuberu, a finance expert insists and frequent user of such services. In summing up his experience, Adetuberu admits that it has not been easy for him, especially when he is famished and expecting instant food delivery. He strongly believes there is a disconnect between the restaurant and the delivery personnel. “You meet a delivery person who feels they are doing you a favour or they expect to be compensated for doing their job,” he said.
Uzor Gift, a creative designer resident in Lagos has lost trust in expecting his food to be delivered on time. “I order when I need it the most. Imagine waiting two hours for something that should have come in 35 minutes. And you’re hungry,” he exclaimed. Gift eventually moved on from ordering all through last year and only resumed this year, still unsure of improved service delivery.
Data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that Lagos residents spent N830 billion ($2 billion) eating out in 2019, representing 34% of total food expenditure. Similarly, Jumia Food in its 2020 Nigeria Food Index Report has highlighted Lagos and Nairobi as the leading cities in volume of food orders. However, for many customers and food vendors, the usual pain point has always hovered around prompt delivery and turnaround time.
Lagos traffic situation
In 2021, a Lagos-based research institute, Danne Institute for Research (DIR), revealed that the state was losing about ₦4 trillion annually as a result of its notorious traffic congestion problem. The report, titled, ‘Connectivity and Productivity Report’, said the economic cost resulted into 14.12 million wasted hours as people commuted to work every day.
The Lagos state commissioner for transportation, Frederic Oladeinde, in another briefing, disclosed that an average of 5,766 vehicles got into Lagos, while 5,831 moved out of the state on a daily basis.
The founder and executive director of the DIR, Professor Franca Ovadje, explained that long commutes between where Lagosians live and work, among other factors, is a major cause of unending traffic jams.
Ovadje said, “We found that the cost to individuals of traffic congestion is N133,978.68 per annum for those who own their vehicles, and N79,039.40 each year for those who use public transport. The total loss to Lagos is estimated at 14.12 million hours per day, or N3,834,340,158,870 per annum.” She lamented that the growth of the city was a cause for reduced productivity due to the state’s poor road network.
The state’s commissioner for information and strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, however denied this. Omotoso, during a stakeholder engagement in January 2022, argued that it was unfair to say that individuals or tourists lost significant man-hours while plying the state roads.
He said, “Let me say this loud and clear. I will not join the ranks of those who describe Lagos traffic as a nuisance, quoting all manner of figures. I saw one saying that an average Lagos tourist loses some incredible man-hours on the road. I felt it was unfair to the government or people that have been employed to manage traffic in Lagos.
“So I contacted some experts and they told me that the figure could not have been right even though it was from a reputable organisation. Some of the facts that they sent to me really showed that the situation is not as bad as people are making us believe.”
Cost issues, lack of communication
Deborah Johnson, who owns and operates a confectionary business, admits that timing is a huge gap to be filled. She notes that cost and regulation have, in a way, hampered the speed of delivery. “My experience with them generally is bad communication, especially in Lagos. In Lagos, it is terrible and unnecessarily expensive. I get Lagos is expensive itself plus traffic, but bikes can literally enter anywhere so deliveries shouldn’t be so slow. And the prices are ridiculous,” Johnson stated.
She recounts a certain experience where she hired a delivery service to drop small chops for a customer and the rider was harassed by the police. She explained that she was agitated about the incident as she wanted to deliver good service to the customer and poor communication could have fixed that issue.
In a nutshell, Johnson admits that she has not been very satisfied. “I was trying to deliver a cupcake recently and the price was half the price of cupcakes. How does a box of 12 cupcakes cost ₦12,000 and you are paying ₦6,000 for delivery? It is weird, crazy and insane. I find it unrealistic. Do they get there on time, a few do, many don’t. Do they communicate 0.1% do, the remaining don’t,” she responded.
Navigating the traffic situation
Founder and CEO of Glovo, Oscar Pierre, admits that fast delivery is something that is wanted by everyone. “In Tokyo, New York, Barcelona, or Lagos, you will find customers that want to get food and products delivered very fast and at a cheap price,” Pierre said. However, he notes that there are teething problems in sub-Saharan Africa, which border on underdeveloped infrastructure—road, electricity, and traffic.
“None of that stops us from building this value proposition of convenience. In Lagos, a very large majority of orders close to 80-90% are delivered below 45 minutes. That is quite convenient even though we can do better. If you go to Barcelona, you see the service works even better. The thing is that the bicycles and motorbikes skip the traffic.”
Dealing with regulation
In 2020, the Lagos state government rolled out a new law that prohibited commercial motorcycles, including bike-hailing startups, from operating in some specified local areas of the state. Several bike-hailing startups were affected and made to reconsider their business models.
Pierre responds that he has always been in sync with the authorities to avoid issues bordering on regulation. He stated that Glovo doesn’t plan to break rules in any country they join. He stressed the desire for the firm to liaise with the authorities in terms of regulations. He stated that even the addition of more riders may be a problem to the traffic situation, but they are trying to carry the authorities along as they add more to their ridership figures.
Presley Tukpe, operations lead at Eden, reveals that the key to their success in on-time deliveries is planning and understanding consumer metrics.
Tukpe notes that the issue with food delivery in a commercial city with over 22 million people in it is that difficulties can arise on different levels of the chain- be it cooking, packaging or delivery.
“We have to ensure everything that is needed is cooked, packed and ready to be delivered. For anything that is to be delivered by 11 am, we work backwards to be sure that all the meals are ready by 8 am, cooking is done by 6:30am, and packaging is ready by 8 am, and riders are on their way. We use the rider going to the farthest distance and most orders and then closest customers,” he said.
Tukpe explains that food preparation and packaging are the items in their control, however, the delivery time is not what they can control. He states that leaving two hours ahead for every delivery whether near or far, helps the firm carry out its delivery functions timely. This way, matters of running into law enforcement, traffic jams are avoided.
The rider that takes a farther route has to be ready on time and then the rider that has the most deliveries is the next priority.
“Before now, most of Eden’s meals were pre-ordered. E-commerce platforms have vague ideas when orders come in. They try to estimate when orders will come in. What we have done at Eden Life is to properly estimate the number of riders needed for pre-orders. For same-day orders, we have been able to estimate when customers orders for breakfast, lunch and the location they order to,” he explained.
In an episode of The McKinsey Podcast, McKinsey partner Kersten Heineke speaks with global editorial director Lucia Rahilly about micro-mobility as the use of two-wheelers, scooters, bikes, and E-mopeds in the world of delivery.
Rahilly notes that after the pandemic, several deliveries were performed on mopeds in New York. Heineke believes that microbikes are the future of deliveries. “Yes, the future of last mile has a significant component of these tinier vehicles to it, especially for anything that needs to be express delivered or where there’s a certain willingness of people to pay for that delivery,” he said in the podcast.
The future of food deliveries in Lagos?
The future of food delivery in Lagos state is quite blurry as a blog, Mustard Insights ranked Lagos state as the most congested city in Africa. It’s followed by Nairobi (Kenya) and Cairo (Egypt) respectively.
Adetuberu admits that while dispatch riders have the propensity to miss your order, the best way to solve issues of that magnitude is the walk-in centre.
“Frankly, if I have the option of going to a walk-in centre, I would rather go there and look at how it is packaged before I collect it and pay. If I am not okay with it, I will take my money elsewhere. Unlike a delivery where I have to wait for things to be resolved while that delivery is for food, and it is likely I am hungry and tied down at work. It’s another battle I face after a stressful day at work,” he explained.