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- Gorillas is a German startup that delivers groceries by bike in just 10 minutes.
- Delivery cyclists are employees, not gig workers.
- Ultra-local deliveries are perfect for COVID lockdowns.
miodrag ignjatovic / Getty Images
Need a bulb of garlic or a bottle of wine? If you’re in Berlin or Cologne, Germany, then Gorillas will deliver them to you by bike in 10 minutes. That’s quicker than you could get to the store yourself.
With a second COVID lockdown starting across Germany this week, this kind of delivery service is going to prove very handy. Ethical shoppers will be happy that the company employs riders directly, but how does Gorillas’ store model affect regular local stores?
Gorillas founders Kağan Sümer and Jörg Kattner did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Three
Gorillas works via an iOS app and Android app, both of which are plain and easy. You can search, or browse by category, and the prices for each item are always on display. You can buy anything you’d find in a regular convenience store, from beer to pregnancy tests, and local favorites are also available—Berliners will love that they don’t have to queue for their Zeit für Brot cinnamon rolls, for example.
The current estimated delivery time for your location is displayed at the top of the screen, and averages around 10 minutes. The delivery fee is a flat €1.80, or around $2.20.
Gorillas is building out a network of “dark” grocery stores, stores that exist only to supply deliveries. This, co-founder Kağan Sümer told TechCrunch, means that Gorillas can “serve people with what they need when they need it.”
Did you ever consider that your weekly or monthly supermarket trip might be more convenient for the store than for you? Supermarket shopping is geared towards bulk purchasing. The stores themselves buy in bulk, of course, but that’s why the tomatoes you buy there have no taste: they’re built for longevity and transportability, not for flavor and texture.
And you, the shopper, also buy in bulk. Who wants to drive all the way to the store, park, shop, wait in line, and spend an hour or so in total just to grab the ingredients for pasta sauce or a bottle of wine for dinner? In some places, people are more used to daily shopping. Spain’s local markets are popular and thriving because that’s how people shop, and it’s both convenient and pleasurable to pick up a couple of items.
Elsewhere, you’re stuck with a supermarket, or an overpriced corner store with a poor selection.
Gorillas uses an interesting model. First, it’s building out a network of stores that are used only to supply its deliveries. This should make logistics simpler, and rent cheaper, because you don’t need a prime location to capture foot traffic.
Next, delivery riders are employed directly, instead of being exploited by a gig-economy-style model.
And finally, the prices look similar to those in stores. You pay a flat delivery fee, but you don’t get gouged on price. And that’s essential if you’re to consider the service as a regular alternative to supermarkets. Convenience only goes so far, after all.
But what about existing local stores? Will they suffer when services like Gorillas take over?
The first point to consider is this: what’s the local grocery store situation like in your neighborhood? It’s likely that the only shopping options are small-store chains, and a few remaining specialty stores—a great bakery, for example. Any other shops—mom-and-pop grocery stores, butchers, and so on—have probably already been driven out of business by the supermarkets.
In that case, local startups like Gorillas aren’t really making anything worse. In fact, they’re providing a good alternative to those supermarkets, which are usually the only other game in town when it comes to groceries.
The other big factor this year and next is COVID-19. Deliveries are up in a big way. Amazon has hired half a million new employees this year, and if the view from my window is any indication, supermarket deliveries are also way up. And with a second wave of full lockdowns rolling across the world this winter, the idea of going to a corner store to pick up a knob of ginger for your evening infusion is pretty unappealing.
In fact, the more you think about it, the more the direct-delivery option makes sense. The delivery riders don’t have to risk their health in regular bodega-style stores, with patrons who refuse to wear masks. They can, in theory, enjoy a properly protected workplace. And because you and I don’t have to make a trip to a busy supermarket for a single item, we’re also kept safer.
One wonders how much of these COVID changes will stick after the virus is done. High-end restaurants may no longer offer takeout, but people may have gotten a real taste for deliveries, and that will prove to be big business.