UCL Health


Growth, Use and Design of Meal Delivery Apps

This project will examine the growth of MDAs in England and their impacts on consumers and on food businesses.

Lady looking intently at her phone

8 March 2024


Over the past decade, new app-based delivery services such as Deliveroo and UberEats have become an increasingly important part of the UK food landscape. Research suggests that consumers are now as likely to order a takeaway via a meal delivery app (MDA) as they are by phone, and more likely to use an MDA than to order over the counter.

However, much of the existing evidence on the extent of MDAs comes from relatively small surveys conducted at a single point in time. This makes it difficult to understand how the scale of the sector has grown, and to document how the growth of MDAs interacts with other food choices made by households and individuals.

Aims and objectives

In this project, we are examining the growth of MDAs in England and their impacts on consumers and on food businesses. We have three overarching aims:

  1. Documenting the growth and spread of MDAs: Analysing which types of restaurants are most likely to be present on these apps and which kinds of households use them most.
  2. Understanding the nutritional quality of MDAs' food offer: Understanding the healthiness of products offered on MDAs, and the extent to which the use of MDAs is coming instead of or in addition to buying other types of takeaways; eating at restaurants; and meals prepared at home.
  3. Understanding how MDAs are designed and used: Exploring how different types of users’ experience MDAs.


Our research focuses on apps that deliver food and drink from businesses such as restaurants (rather than supermarket/grocery delivery). We will use a range of data, including scanner data, which contains detailed anonymised information that households report about their grocery purchases and the food they buy to eat away from home, and data scraped from the MDA websites at different points in time.

We begin by describing the size of the MDA market. We will use data from MDA websites to document which restaurants are present on different platforms over time and for different parts of the country. We will look at the characteristics of households that are more likely to use MDAs, such as their age and gender composition, employment and income, ethnicity, and geographical region.

We will then turn our attention to understanding the food offered by MDAs. Based on our web-scraping of MDAs' websites, we will document the healthiness and price of the different options available. We will also use household purchasing data to explore trends in the use of MDAs compared to food from other sources (traditional delivery services, dine-in restaurants, and home cooking).

Finally, we will combine desk-based data collection with in-depth case studies in six areas to understand how MDAs curate their food offer - including the positioning, price, nutritional information, and promotion of different types of food.


  • 2024-2026

Led by Rachel Griffith and Britta Augsburg at the Institute for Fiscal Studies. View the Healthy Weight research team 


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The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Healthy Weight is part of the NIHR and hosted by UCL.