Contributing editor, Peter Backman is a long-term foodservice sector guru and founder of theDelivery.World, a platform that connects the delivery sector and makes sense of the myriad changes and challenges that affect the sector across the globe.

In 2023, the global restaurant delivery market continues its growth trajectory, marked by emerging profitability.

Zhongshan, China: A KFC food delivery man walking back to the shop.

Excluding China, a unique market with a single dominant player, Meituan, and prolonged COVID lockdowns that favored restaurant delivery for far longer than most other countries, global GTV (Gross Transactional Value) reached $226 billion in 2021. The growth continued with a 5.4 percent increase in 2022, and projections for the first half of 2023 suggest a 14 percent surge in global GTV (outside China) this year.

The six largest aggregators—including Meituan, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Delivery Hero, Just Eat Takeaway, Deliveroo—collectively generated a substantial GTV of $307 billion last year. Complementing their efforts, approximately 15 other significant aggregators contributed an additional $63 billion, culminating in a total market GTV of $379 billion representing a 6.4-percent increase from the previous year.

The flourishing restaurant delivery market, spanning 106 countries, typically supports two or three aggregators in each country. Among these, Delivery Hero boasts the widest global reach, operating in 68 countries, albeit many are smaller markets. Uber Eats serves customers in 54 countries, DoorDash maintains a presence in 26 countries, Just Eat Takeaway caters to 19 countries, and Deliveroo, while more localized, operates in 10 countries.

These five delivery aggregators commanded an impressive 80.7 percent of the market outside China, accumulating a total GTV of $193 billion in 2022. DoorDash’s noteworthy growth saw its market share rise from 23 percent in Q2 2021 to 31 percent in Q2 2023, partly attributed to its strategic acquisition of Wolt in Q2 2022.

Take rates, which converts GTV into revenue, play a pivotal role in determining the financial performance of these aggregators. The COVID lockdowns, during which the sole effective source of income for restaurants was delivery (plus takeout), allowed delivery aggregators to leverage their marketing power, resulting in an average 3 percent increase in take rates since the beginning of 2020.

The surge in both GTV and take rates propelled revenue for the top five aggregators from $6 billion in H1 2020 to an impressive $20 billion in the first half of 2023.

While profitability remains a challenge at the cash flow level, the industry has witnessed ongoing efforts to increase revenue from sources other than take rates, while also reducing expenses. This has given rise to many initiatives including adding subscription services, adjusting delivery fees, and the continuous refinement of algorithms.

Consequently adjusted EBITDA figures tell a promising story. In 2023, all five companies reported positive adjusted EBITDA in the first half of the year, aggregating to $1.13 billion. This represents a significant increase from the $490 million recorded in the first half of 2022.

In conclusion, the global restaurant delivery market in 2023 is thriving, and is marked by substantial GTV and revenue growth, supported by an evolving landscape of profitability, at least as measured by adjusted EBITDA. The top delivery aggregators outside China continue to expand their international reach, shaping the future of restaurant delivery services to cater to the diverse global customer base.