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Amid coronavirus concerns, food delivery services offer no-contact drop-off

Grubhub, Postmates, Instacart and more are letting customers dictate where orders can be dropped off to avoid physical contact.
/ Source: TODAY

As new cases of the novel coronavirus continue to pop up across the United States, more and more businesses are enacting measures in an attempt to mitigate the spread of harmful germs.

On Friday, third-party food delivery service Postmates announced in a blog post that it had introduced a non-contact delivery feature in its app for customers and workers in an effort to make everyone involved feel more "comfortable" when orders are made and received.

"Customers can choose to meet their Postmate at the door, as they have before, meet curbside, or go non-contact and have deliveries left at the door," explained the post. "To use this new feature, order as normal and then you’ll be prompted to select your delivery preference before checking out."

The Postmate will then be alerted to a customer's drop-off preference at the time of delivery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the coronavirus can be transmitted between people when an infected person, standing within 6 feet of someone else, coughs or sneezes.

With more people being asked to work from home or self-quarantine as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rise, the use of food delivery services may spike. Minimizing contact where possible is one way to potentially reduce the risk of spreading the virus among customers and delivery workers in all industries.

Some thought the announcement seemed a bit extreme.

Others said the logistics of a process in which people aren't able to physically see their food being dropped off could lead to a slew of complaints.

But, like Postmates, other food delivery services have decided that the benefits of a no-contact option outweigh the risks.

Last week, Instacart, a grocery delivery service, launched a "Leave at My Door Delivery" service which allows any courier to leave a customer's order at their door at an appointed time, rather than requiring someone be available in person to receive it.

When reached by TODAY, food delivery service Grubhub said that while it had not rolled out an official option in its app, customers may still request that an order be left somewhere to avoid contact.

"We’ve provided drivers and restaurants with the CDC’s recommendations that focus on good hygiene and using all appropriate precautions when interacting with others," a spokesperson for GrubHub said in an emailed statement. "For increased diner and driver safety, diners can also request their food to be dropped off — instead of delivered by a direct handoff — by using the ordering Instructions box in the checkout section of our platform."

DoorDash said the company is closely monitoring the situation and reiterated that its app allows people to select if they prefer food to be left at the door. They are also reminding their couriers to leave a photo of every order at the customer's doorstep to minimize potential theft issues. "We will continue to closely monitor and take action in response to this developing situation," a representative for the company told TODAY.

The first reported case of the coronavirus appeared in China last year. With millions placed under quarantine, restaurant delivery services saw a major surge in use. This led to several companies, like KFC and Pizza Hut, to create in-app delivery options which allowed customers to leave drop-off instructions for a courier.

While U.S. companies may have been slower to respond, the fact that they are now making the option available is being viewed as a good thing by many experts.

"(Contactless delivery) prevents both drivers and customers from transmitting illnesses to one another," emergency planning expert Patrick Hardy, creator of the Disaster Hawk disaster preparedness app, told TODAY. "When families create disaster response plans, they should always include how they plan to accept deliveries."

Even if you're not using an app or if you're worried your smartphone isn't working properly, there are still other ways to inform delivery workers about your drop-off preferences.

"Going the old-fashioned route of leaving a note on the door that shows where to drop off deliveries can’t hurt just in case the instructions you left digitally or over the phone don’t make it to the driver," added Hardy.

Of course, whether a food delivery is completed with or without in-person contact, that meal is still being brought to you, so don't forget to tip.