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/ Source: TODAY
By Erica Chayes Wida

Food delivery apps are becoming increasingly popular, even in suburban areas of the U.S. But is convenience worth it if delivery drivers are sampling diners' dinners?

A recent survey, which was commissioned and conducted by restaurant food supplier and distributor US Foods, asked both consumers and delivery workers about their "habits and pain points" when it comes to ordering and delivering meals.

The responses revealed some unique insight as to how long people will actually wait to get their food, attitudes toward tipping and more. Unfortunately, it also revealed some unsettling information. For example, out of nearly 500 delivery workers surveyed, more 25% said they'd munched on food from an order. Yikes.

Apparently the temptation of a delicious meal is just too hard to resist — especially when it's not yours.

To conduct the survey, US Foods surveyed 1,518 American adults who said that they have used food delivery apps. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18-77, with a median age of 31. They also surveyed 497 American adults who "identified as having worked as a deliverer for at least one food delivery app." Those respondents had a median age of 30.

US Foods found that the average American has two food delivery apps on their smartphone, from which they order about three times a month. The most popular apps included Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates — all of which are third-party delivery services that partner with restaurants and grocery stores to bring food to peoples' homes.

Emails to Uber Eats, Grubhub and Doordash regarding the study were not immediately returned.

On Wednesday, a Postmates spokesperson provided the following statement to TODAY: "At Postmates, nothing is more important to us than the safety and wellbeing of our entire community, which is why we require each person who completes a delivery using Postmates to expressly agree that all food and goods delivered will arrive in a tamper free form and in compliance with all applicable food health and safety laws.

"While reports of food tampering represent less than 0.06% of cases reported to our Trust & Safety team, we take any report of health safety violations very seriously, which is why we have built trust & security into our product design and network operations from day one; have specific policies and community standards in place to prevent tampering; investigate all reported order irregularities; take prompt action against any accounts suspected of tampering with orders; and work with any impacted customers to ensure a prompt resolution of any issues they report. We're also engaged in active discussions with lawmakers and other stakeholders to develop a regulatory framework for the safety of food delivery."

An Acosta study from July 2018 showed that since 2015, "convenient meal solutions," like food delivery, have spiked in every category and age group, particularly among families with children and millennials. In 2016, research conducted by McKinsey & Company estimated that the online food delivery market will grow 4% every year for the next five years.

Encouraged by big chains, fast food fans have also been prompted to download delivery apps, since using third-party drivers to promote deals has become increasingly popular.

Last summer, Burger King offered 100 chicken nuggets for $10 with free delivery through Postmates. Chick-fil-A partnered with DoorDash in November 2018 to give away free sandwiches exclusively through the app. Even coffee breaks got easier this year when Starbucks became available on the Uber Eats app in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C. and New York City, a spokesperson told TODAY Food in January.

But there are some downsides to this convenience.

Not only did 28% of delivery drivers surveyed admit that they had taken a nibble from a customer's order, 17% of customers said they'd had an experience where a delivery driver simply left food outside and didn't hand it off to them.

To address this issue, a majority of customers (85%) who responded said they'd like restaurants to invest in "tamper-evident labels" to help combat this in the future.

This story was updated on July 31 to reflect new information provided by Postmates.