Dogs vs Deliveroo: A Lockdown Tail

by Richard Goodwin

Life is About Context

Since the first lockdown, Maria Harris and I have taken daily walks and played a little game which we call “Dogs vs Deliveroo.” The rules are very simple. During the walk we count the number of dogs we see and we count the number of aquamarine backpacked Deliveroo riders with backpacks we see. The winner each day is whichever has the higher count.

Why does this matter?

Well, all of the education and training run by The JGA Group is about helping apprentices and other learners to get better at understanding people and what drives them. Whether you are learning to devise and champion effective policy, to sell (a product, a client, or yourself), to market, to communicate, to manage or even to photograph, key to success is understanding what drives stakeholders to do what they do. This impacts marketing, insight, policy, and sales. At a higher level, systems thinking is good at getting to the heart of issues like this. While the newspapers might say that there are simple causes for changes in our world, things are rarely quite that straightforward when you look into them.

So what are the lessons?

Lesson 1: “Keep an eye on your surroundings

Our first learning was keep your eyes open and notice things. I am often preoccupied, thinking about work and miss loads of Dogs & Deliveroo riders, so most are spotted by Maria rather than by me.

Lesson 2: “Don’t get stuck on effects, think about causes

So what are the influencing factors?

Pandemic: two of the things almost everyone knows about the pandemic is the increased popularity of dogs as pets and more food deliveries. Will both trends outlast the pandemic? Certainly to an extent, owning a dog is a long term commitment. This is great for vet and pet food companies as increasing demand for their products will be ongoing. It’s not so good for breeders as probably the one-off purchases of new pets have already been made. Food delivery, I suspect, is habit forming – why collect when you can Deliveroo?! It remains to be seen though whether Deliveroo’s accumulation of new customers slows post-pandemic, or what effect changes in the economy will have. Tools such as scenario planning are used within our systems thinking apprenticeship for this type of analysis.

Branding: a few years ago Deliveroo riders were everywhere in London, but then they went through a rough patch with their industrial relations (there was controversy about the pay and conditions of gig economy workers) and all of a sudden we rarely saw them. Presumably this was because the branding was taken off riders’ kit, rather than falling usage? Riders became more visible again pre-pandemic – presumably a branding decision? Perhaps someone from Deliveroo can tell us?

Locations: when we walk down a street with lots of restaurants we tend to see lots of Deliveroo. When we walk across a park, all things being equal we tend to see more dogs, obvs. In a broader sense, a big city tends to have higher density Deliveroo than a town – London has loads, Hythe has none (and lots of dogs being walked by the sea).

Time of day and day of the week: mealtimes tend towards Deliveroo, even more so at the weekends. I’m sure that if we walked early morning then it would tend towards dogs being walked before work and little Deliveroo. Does anyone Deliveroo breakfast? On one occasion we walked on Saturday evening through a street of restaurants and in a 30 minute walk Deliveroo shot up from 5 to nearly 25, while the dogs, which that day had been firmly ahead, were metaphorically, left for dust.

Weather: rain must surely drive demand for food delivery and reduce the number of dog walkers and when it’s fine, the opposite applies. Many years ago, I worked part time at McDonalds and every shift the manager would note down the weather (in a book – it was a very long time ago). This is because the weather made a difference to the takings. The same must apply here.

Luck: who knows? One day we pass a professional dog walker who may have 7 dogs and on another day someone’s having a party which involves lots of delivery. You just can’t legislate for fortune, just be aware that it exists, is outside your control and don’t base conclusions on the ocassional fluke.

Lesson 3: “The short run and the long run may relate, but be very different. Think about them separately, as well as together.”

Use the PESTLE* or another framework, if they help.

Long term: of course, there are other factors which apply. Internet technology which enables us to order via mobile apps wasn’t around 10 years ago (Deliveroo was founded in 2013), or at least it wasn’t affordable 10 years ago. Dog ownership was in gentle decline until the pandemic, whereas Deliveroo has doubled it’s number of customers through consistent growth over 4 years. Overall in the country there are 12m dogs kept as pets and 7.1m Deliveroo customers.

Dogs need walking every day, will Deliveroo’s customers order every day? So across the UK it seems likely there will be more dog walks than delivery rides for the foreseeable future.

Who is the champion of dogs vs Deliveroo March 2019 – December 2021?

Lesson 4 is “Keep records!

We didn’t keep a record so we can’t be sure who won overall, but for those interested, we reckon that overall Deliveroo probably beat the dogs.

I hope you found this interesting. To find out more about our apprenticeships for corporate growth functions and for public sector professions please do check us out

*PESTLE is analysing by looking at context in terms of Political, Economic, Social, Tech, Legal and Environmental factors.