Amid the coronavirus pandemic, use of food delivery service apps for iOS and Android has skyrocketed, as restaurants have shuttered except for takeout and delivery orders, and more people are staying in and ordering food at home. It's still safe to order takeout or delivery during lockdowns and quarantines, so long as you take certain precautions, like choosing contactless delivery, taking food out of containers and washing your hands, of course.
Food delivery service apps can bring meals from your favorite local restaurants and chains to your doorstep with just a few taps on your phone — and in roughly the same amount of time as your old pizza standby. Most of these apps let you choose from a range of restaurants, from fast-food options (such as McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell) to popular chains (such as California Pizza Kitchen and TGI Fridays) to greasy spoons, fine dining and everything in between.
Want to give one a try? When you sign up — usually with your email address and a password — most of these apps will give you free delivery offers or other discounts.
Here are the best food delivery apps of 2020, all of which are available on iOS and Android. A major caveat: I tested them all out (a true hardship) where I live in Louisville, Kentucky, prior to the onset of the pandemic. Your experience will likely vary depending on your location, the time of day when you order, and the current promotions available.
Most of the apps look and work similarly, and most have similar restaurant choices available. It should be noted that many have been criticized for alleged issues like tipping policies for drivers, withholding money from restaurants for fake phone orders, and creating lower profit margins for restaurants in general, since the apps can charge them up to 30% in fees. When possible, restaurant owners recommend ordering directly from the restaurant and picking up the food, or using their own delivery service when available.
If you want to save money, download a few of these apps to see which will give you the best deal.
Best for consistency
Recently ranked the most popular food delivery app, DoorDash has 310,000 restaurants located in 4,000 cities worldwide, 80% of which are in the US, according to the company. The app's interface is a bit busy, but helpful: A menu of icons at the top of the screen let you search by type of food (burgers, Mexican, sandwiches and so on) or by rating level, price level, delivery in under 30 minutes or vegetarian options.
As you scroll, you'll see restaurants named Featured National Partners (including The Cheesecake Factory and Chipotle), those that offer no delivery fee for your first order, local favorites, the fastest options available near you, DoorDash Deals, and those that are outside your neighborhood that you might want to try. You can also search for a specific restaurant.
When you tap on a restaurant, you'll see its ratings, delivery cost, estimated time, and distance from you. Menus are easy to navigate, and split up by popular items, followed by your usual appetizers, mains, desserts and so on. Or, you can switch to a full menu view. Tap on individual items to customize them and add them to your order.
We ordered from DoorDash on a Monday night. My expected delivery window was 28 to 38 minutes, and the food arrived in 36 minutes. Everything was pretty warm, which was impressive, considering that the restaurant was a solid 15-minute drive away.
We spent $27 on two entrees, and were charged $2 in tax, a $3 delivery fee, and $3 service fee. But we also got a $5 discount. All total, that made for only $3 in fees, plus a tip for the driver. We also got a 25% off coupon that was good for another week.
If you're a frequent user, you can sign up for DoorDash's subscription service, DashPass. For $10 a month, you get free delivery and lower service fees from thousands of restaurants nationwide (in Louisville, there were about 130 options near me). If you don't want to subscribe, you can still turn on notifications to see nearby promotions.
By the numbers
Delivery night: Monday
Expected delivery window: 28 to 38 minutes
Actual delivery time: 36 minutes
Two meals: $27
Delivery fee: +$3
Service fee: +$3
Total fee paid: $3
Driver tip: $6
Total for meal and tip: $36
Had we dined at the restaurant, our two entrees would have cost $24, instead of $27, according to the online menu. Had we not purchased any beverages and tipped 20%, our total would have been about $29.
Best for fast delivery
If you already use Uber for your rideshare needs, you're in luck: Last year, the company began merging its rideshare platform and Uber Eats food delivery service into the same app. This has only rolled out in certain cities, so for now you may still need to download the separate Uber Eats app.
Uber Eats has more than 320,000 restaurant partners in more than 500 cities globally. Its average delivery time is under 30 minutes, according to the company.
The app sorts restaurant choices based on your previous orders, but you can also sort by most popular, highest rating, price range, delivery time, delivery fee and dietary needs. If you scroll down the front page, you'll see special offers, along with categories like Popular Near You and National Brands.
Similar to Uber's ride-hailing app, you can track where your driver is in real time — a nice feature when you just need to know when you'll be able to eat.
We ordered two entrees and an appetizer from a local Italian restaurant for a total of $26. I was charged a $4 service fee, a $5 delivery fee and $2 in taxes — an extra $11 on top of my meal, plus a tip for the driver. At first, I experienced a strange issue wherein my order seemed to cancel itself, but it could have been my spotty internet connection. I ordered again and it went through normally.
Even though it was a busy Saturday night, my order arrived within 30 minutes — faster than any other app I tried. However, at least when I ordered, Uber Eats seemed to have more fast food than local options available.
From what I can tell, Uber Eats doesn't send email promotions. It's nice not to have my inbox bombarded, but at the same time, I might be more likely to open the app if I know there's a deal happening. You can join Uber Rewards to earn points, which lets you earn points across the food and ride-hailing platform that can add up to free delivery.
By the numbers
Delivery night: Saturday
Expected delivery window: 30 minutes
Actual delivery time: 30 minutes
Two meals plus appetizer: $26
Delivery fee: +$5
Service fee: +$4
Total fee paid: $11
Driver tip: $4
Total for meal and tip: $41
The prices for this restaurant were the same in the app and on their menu online. Had we eaten in the restaurant, we still would have paid $26 for our food. If we ordered nothing else and tipped 20%, we would have paid a total of $31.
Best for delivery deals
Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Postmates now operates in more than 4,200 US cities, and has more than 500,000 restaurants available for delivery or pickup. The app has a good variety of options, and a clean, simple interface. You can sort by Recommended, Fastest, Popular, or type of cuisine.
Postmates charges a delivery fee between $1 to $10, plus a variable percentage-based service fee during busy times. Thankfully, the app offers great deals, typically via email, to help offset those extra costs. Or, you can join a Party — an order from a place other people in your area are ordering from at the moment — to get free delivery.
Another perk is that the driver can send you a text (without having access to your phone number), to keep you posted on their location and any issues. You can also make orders from drugstores like CVS and Walgreens.
Unlike some of the other apps, Postmates also offers 24/7 service, so long as the restaurant or store you're ordering from is still open.
We ordered dinner on a Friday night from a more upscale local restaurant. Delivery time was estimated to take 40 minutes, but it ended up being 50 minutes. However, the food was still warm. We ordered two entrees for $37, and were charged $8 in tax and fees and $4 for delivery, but received a $2 discount. So all together, we paid an extra $10 in fees, plus the tip for the driver.
Like DoorDash, Postmates also has a subscription option for frequent orderers. Postmates Unlimited costs $10 a month or $100 annually, and gives you free delivery on all orders over $15, along with other perks like no increased pricing during busy hours.
By the numbers
Delivery night: Friday
Expected delivery window: 40 minutes
Actual delivery time: 50 minutes
Two meals: $37
Tax & fees: +$8
Delivery fee: +$4
Total fee paid: $10
Driver tip: $9
Total for meal and tip: $56
The prices on the app were slightly inflated from those at the restaurant. Had we dined in, our two entrees would have cost $34. With a 20% tip and nothing else ordered, we would have paid $41.
Best for easy payment
Grubhub (which also owns Seamless) operates in 2,700 US cities, and has partnerships with 140,000 restaurants. The Grubhub and Seamless apps are almost identical. You can search by type of food, and sort results by price, rating, distance, delivery time, and delivery fee. If you tap the My Grubhub option, you'll see daily deals and past orders.
We ordered an appetizer and two entrees from a local Mexican restaurant, for a total of $33. We were charged a $6 delivery fee and $9 in taxes and fees, plus the driver tip (the app prompts you to tip 25% by default, and says that drivers keep all tips). But we had a promo code for $10 off, so ultimately we spent $5 in extra fees.
One weird note: About 10 minutes after I ordered, and the app said the order was accepted by the restaurant and gave me an estimated delivery time, I got a phone call. It was, presumably, my driver, saying she wanted to place an order for pickup. It seemed that she mistook my phone number for that of the restaurant. It wasn't a big deal, but did tip me off that like the Domino's Pizza Tracker, the delivery tracker may not be the most accurate. But hey, the meal was still delivered at the end of the delivery window, and was still warm. You can also schedule a meal ahead of time if you need to.
Grubhub and Seamless support almost every payment method, including PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay, if you don't want to share your credit card info directly — a major perk. Speaking of, check out the Perks tab at the bottom of each app to find promotions and ways to earn cash back.
By the numbers
Delivery night: Tuesday
Expected delivery window: 60 to 70 minutes
Actual delivery time: 70 minutes
Two meals plus appetizer: $33
Tax & fees: +$9
Delivery fee: +$6
Total fee paid: $5
Driver tip: $10
Total for meal: $48
Interestingly, the prices on the app appear to be slightly lower than those at the restaurant, according to its online menu. Had we dined in, we would have paid $35 for our meals and app. With a 20% tip, that would have cost us $42, so we still would have saved money on fees.
Best for more than just food
Screenshot by Alison DeNisco Rayome/CNET
Delivery.com operates in more than 1,800 US cities, with about 15,000 restaurants on the platform. Unlike most other platforms, you can also order groceries, alcohol, and even wash-and-fold services or dry cleaning from your local cleaners, as well as gifts that can be delivered to someone else.
Search by restaurant, dish, or type of cuisine, and filter by rating (with an option to see both Delivery.com and Yelp ratings), estimated delivery time, price range, delivery fee. You can also toggle to see special offers only, free delivery only, new restaurants only, or good for groups only.
We ordered two entrees from a local Thai restaurant for $29, and were charged a $5 delivery fee, $1 service charge, and $2 tax, for a total of $8 extra, plus the driver tip. Delivery times were a little all over the place: The estimate for the restaurant itself was 45 to 60 minutes, but when I ordered, it told me it would be there in 20 minutes, which seemed overly ambitious. It ultimately took about an hour from ordering to delivery.
Earn points on every dollar spent on the app to build up to rewards, like delivery credits and, with enough points, you can earn tech items such as a Roku or an iPad mini. You can also donate points to a charity. Delivery.com sends occasional promotions via email too.
By the numbers
Delivery night: Thursday
Expected delivery window: 45 to 60 minutes
Actual delivery time: 65 minutes
Two meals: $29
Delivery fee: +$5
Service fee: +$1
Total fee paid: $8
Driver tip: $6
Total for meal: $43
This app had the largest upcharge for food out of all of them: Had we eaten at the restaurant, our two entrees would have cost $22. With a 20% tip and nothing else ordered, we would have paid about $26 total.
What's your favorite food delivery service? Do you have stories to share about your experiences with these and other services? Sound off in the comments below.