Image via Unsplash.

While the state of the food delivery market feels like it’s changing every day, one thing it isn’t doing is slowing down, a fact underscored by research firm eMarketer’s most recent forecast. According to forecast numbers, usage of third-party restaurant food delivery apps will hit 44 million U.S. users by 2020, up from 38 million users this year. By 2023, that number is expected to jump to 60 million U.S. users.

Source: eMarketer

Within the context of the eMarketer forecast, food delivery apps are third-party mobile apps “whose primary function is the ordering of prepared food.” That means the usual suspects — Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates — all play a role. Right now DoorDash leads, with a market share of 27.6 percent. DoorDash only recently took the top spot, unseating longtime leader Grubhub, who now holds 26.7 percent of the market. Uber Eats follows with 25.2 percent, and Postmates at 12.1 percent.

Source: eMarketer

Each of these companies has a slightly different set of tactics when it comes to building and retaining customers and staying ahead. DoorDash, who is currently valued at around $2 billion, has for some time aggressively pursued partnerships with nationwide chains to make its presence known in every pocket of suburban America. Clearly the tactic is working (though it’s not without controversy).

Grubhub still rules in NYC. While at the moment it’s dealing with the aftermath of a recent oversight hearing that called into question its fee structure, the service’s status in the Big Apple is unlikely to change anytime soon. Postmates, meanwhile, filed confidential paperwork for an IPO and has also been steadily expanding service across the U.S.

Uber Eats probably has the most varied track record when it comes to initiatives designed to get food to U.S. customers faster. It’s launching a drone program in San Diego that, if successful, will expand to other parts of the country. The service is also increasing the number of choices its customers have in terms of how they use the Uber Eats app. In other words, it’s not just about delivery. Uber Eats Dine-In will let customers order food from a restaurant ahead of time to eat in the dining room, and Uber’s rideshare service is working with restaurant to subsidize users’ trips to the brick-and-mortar locations.

In its forecast, eMarketer cited more options for customers as something that will be a key driver for growth, though it didn’t elaborate on what that choice is: more restaurants or more ways to access the restaurant.

What is certain is that any of the numbers listed in the forecast could change pretty quickly. As Second Measure noted in June, customer loyalty to any single service isn’t especially high right now. Meanwhile, others are entering the food delivery market to try and get restaurants — especially national chains — to focus more on bringing delivery back in house, citing brand integrity as the number one driver.

That latter will become a bigger issue, and in the not-too-distant future. It’s only summertime, but I’ll make an early prediction for 2020 and say the fight between using third-party apps and employing some other solution to boost in-house order and delivery will be a key battleground as restaurant food delivery grows and the fight to retain customers continues.

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Jenn is a writer and editor for The Spoon who covers restaurant tech and food delivery, developments in agriculture and indoor farming, and startup accelerators and incubators. On the side, she moonlights as a ghostwriter for tech industry executives and spends a lot of time on the road exploring food developments in more remote parts of the country. Previously, she was managing editor of Gigaom’s market research department and was once a competitive pinball player. Jenn splits her time between NYC and Nashville, TN.

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