Panera recently announced that it expects to add more than 10,000 new in-cafe and delivery driver jobs system-wide as it expands delivery service to 35-40 percent of its cafes by year end 2017.
Panera is hiring its own drivers in company-owned and franchised markets across the country. These in-house drivers will have daytime hours and competitive wages. The new digital and mobile ordering-based service, Panera Delivery, will provide lunch and dinner to offices, hospitals, campuses and homes, typically within an eight-minute drive of a Panera bakery-cafe. Cafes will generally deliver between the hours of 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week.
News of the delivery service came a few days after Panera Bread and JAB announced that the companies have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which JAB will acquire Panera for $315 per share in cash. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2017.
The expansion into delivery services may generate more claims to be handled by insurance defense law firms that are members of the Panera panel counsel program.
Online Apps Fuel Meal Delivery
Meal delivery, beyond that of the historical pizza delivery business, has been growing by double digits since 2012, according to researcher NPD Group. Future expansion is projected, as restaurants nationwide partner with delivery services like Uber Eats, GrubHub, Door Dash, and Eat24. Growth in the use of mobile apps, particularly online meal orders, is fueling this drive for delivery. Demographics are also at work, as millennials seek instant, convenient solutions to meal time.
The Cheesecake Factory is partnering with Door Dash to deliver meals and the restaurant’s 50 signature cheesecakes and desserts straight to the consumer’s door in half of the markets it serves. T.G.I. Fridays, Chili’s, and Maggiano’s are all now on GrubHub, according to industry reports.
Leading Meal Delivery Services
GrubHub is a leading online and mobile food ordering company dedicated to connecting hungry diners with local takeout restaurants. The company’s online and mobile ordering platforms allow diners to order directly from more than 50,000 takeout restaurants in over 1,100 U.S. cities and London. Every order is supported by the company’s 24/7 customer service teams. GrubHub has offices in Chicago, New York and London.
Door Dash is another growing meal delivery service, with operations now in more than 300 cities. Northern and Southern California, Minnesota, Houston, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Phoenix, Dallas, New York City, and Chicago are among the locations currently served by Door Dash.
Seamless is yet another food delivery service. It offers full menus, ratings, reviews, and discounts from a network of more than 12,000 restaurants in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, London, and other U.S. cities.
Liability Issues with Meal Delivery
According to an article in Nation’s Restaurant News, liability considerations associated with the use of third-party delivery services by restaurant chains include the risk of foodborne illness, motor vehicle accidents, and possible intentional or criminal acts by delivery personnel.
Just as Uber and Lyft have worked to address insurance and risk management issues, third party delivery services often require written partnership agreements with all restaurant clients. There is industry concern, however, that potential litigants will pursue the “deep pockets” of well-known restaurant chains when seeking damages.
Insurance Defense Panel Counsel Opportunities
Liability and risk management in the meal delivery service sector can be multi-faceted. On the employment defense side, the role of drivers comes into question in regard to employee versus independent contractor status, workers’ compensation, background checks, and unemployment insurance. On the liability side, the risks involve motor vehicle accidents, property damage, and potential criminal behavior.
Insurance defense law firms that tackle these emerging legal issues through articles, speaking opportunities, and continuing education seminars may be able to create a distinctive niche market for themselves.
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Disclaimer: Information in this article is taken from various company and industry news sources, and is believed to be reliable.