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Food deliveries booming in pandemic while other parts of ‘gig economy’ not in demand

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Just like other sectors of the workforce, the “gig economy” hasn’t been able to navigate the coronavirus pandemic unscathed — but some independent contractors are far more in demand than others.

Unlike a traditional job that pays a salary and benefits, gig workers are paid by the job — or the “gig” — and leverage technology to find and interact with customers.

Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and Etsy are among the most common examples, but the pandemic has raised the profile of other gig economy services.

Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft were hit hard by the pandemic starting last spring as people stayed home more and limited their travels.

But other areas of the gig economy like food-delivery services have seen far more demand as people sought ways to have the outside world brought to their homes.

CHOMP, a food-delivery service in Eastern Iowa, has seen a lot of company growth in 2020, founder Adam Weeks said. After the initial shock at the beginning of the pandemic with businesses shutting down rapidly, he said, the company has seen more business than before and now has about 120 drivers.

“In March, we very quickly saw a huge increase in business,” Weeks said. “It was bittersweet then and it is now. It’s good to see our business grow and bring in revenue to restaurants, but it’s difficult to see other small businesses struggle.”

Weeks said the “explosive” growth has continued to climb throughout the summer and into the fall as college students returned to the University of Iowa campus.

He said there have been increases, too, in the company’s “outer regions” like North Liberty, Tipton and Coralville. CHOMP also has recently been operating in Cedar Rapids, but things slowed down after the Aug. 10 derecho, Weeks said.

More restaurants including Iowa Chop House and Saint Burch Tavern have joined the service this year as delivery has become more common due to the pandemic and have instantly been popular on CHOMP, he said.

Abby Lorenzen has driven full time for CHOMP for a few months, starting after the pandemic began.

“It was really busy while people were locked down,” said Lorenzen, 33. “It kind of slowed down in the summer but that’s Iowa City. It’s just starting to pick back up. Every week is unpredictable.”

Lorenzen said she has observed that the lunch crowd tends to be people working from home and UI students tend to order for dinner.

“It’s mostly people in quarantine mode or people working from home,” she said. “There’s a lot of regulars and some people order twice a day. Those people may not really be going outside lately. It’s really interesting.”

Business increases for app-based food delivery services aren’t just local, either. Jenna DeMarco, a spokeswoman for GrubHub, said the company ended its last quarter with 27.5 million customers nationally, up 35 percent since last year and up 3.6 million since the first quarter.

“We sent 647,100 orders to restaurants on average each day, up 32 percent compared to the same time last year,” DeMarco said.

In the company’s second quarter in 2020, GrubHub drove $2.3 billion in food sales to restaurants across the country from April to June, an increase of 59 percent from the second quarter of 2019, she said.

According to a shareholder report from company founder and Chief Executive Officer Matt Maloney and President and Chief Financial Officer Adam DeWitt, the dramatic tail-wind the company experienced was sparked by COVID-19. But now the company is continuing to see higher numbers consistently.

“Given the strength we continue to see in the third quarter, we now believe the pandemic has been less of a temporary demand spike and more of a permanent catalyst putting our business on a higher, sustained trajectory,” the report reads. “We had millions of new diners trying GrubHub for the first time, meaningfully improved diner retention and frequency for old and new diners alike.”

Just like restaurant delivery, grocery delivery has seen an increase in demand as well.

According to a Shipt spokeswoman, the company has seen an unprecedented rise in demand, including “several record-breaking weeks for orders delivered.”

The company doubled the number of shoppers during the months of April and May, bringing the total number of shoppers for the company to 200,000 nationwide.

Josie Pike has been a shopper for Shipt in the Cedar Rapids area for two years. She was one of the first shoppers when Shipt arrived in the area in 2018, starting part-time until she lost her full-time human resources job at the beginning of the pandemic and switched to Shipt full time.

Pike said she loves the job and she’s definitely seen an increase in demand for her services.

“We do always have our regulars and we love that,” she said. “But during the pandemic, we’ve seen an uptick of first-time users for people who aren’t comfortable going out right now. People out of state have also been ordering items for elderly parents in the area. We see a lot of that come through as well.”

Pike shops and picks up items for Shipt customers at Target, Hy-Vee, Petco and CVS. She said she is doing about 12 to 15 orders a day now.

“Even the evening hours are seeing more orders coming in,” she said. “When I was part time, it was crazy. There were backlogs in late March, early April. We just didn’t have the capacity to answer all the demands for the service.”

Dave Swenson, an Iowa State University economist, said it’s difficult to measure the entirety of the “gig” sector of the economy because it “doesn’t quite fit in a standard category the census uses.”

“You can measure them to a degree by linking them to different firms by seeing how many contractors a company has or how many participants they have,” Swenson said. “It tells us how many people, but we don’t know how many hours they’re putting in, their costs. There are a lot of things we don’t know.”

Swenson said at the beginning of the pandemic, as people ordered delivery instead of going out to eat, food delivery companies were better off than other sectors of the gig economy.

But he said some who work in the gig economy, like Uber or Lyft drivers, often make $8 to $12 per hour — often not enough to sustain that beyond a part-time sideline.

“The gig economy is actually smaller than we thought,” Swenson said. “There’s initial enthusiasm, but people realize they’re not making enough money.”

Swenson said the coronavirus pandemic initially “hammered” some sectors within the gig economy — like app-based drivers and Airbnb renters — but it’s still hard to know exact numbers.

“They were massively unemployed,” he said, but, ”we’re in the dark. We don’t know how many people were part of that ‘alternative gig-economy.’”

Looking at the national level from 2015 through the first quarter of 2020, he said, the percentage of all labor-based income by non-farm proprietors stayed nearly the same, about 12.5 percent — an indicator that the gig economy’s share of the entire economy was neither growing nor shrinking before the pandemic arrived.

While the number of gig economy workers is unknown for sure, the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program let states decide whether to allow these workers to receive unemployment benefits — for which there were typically ineligible before.

Iowa, among the states that provide these benefits, paid out more than $4 million a week during August for gig workers, independent contractors, self-employed workers and others in the category, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

Comments: (319) 398-8255; gage.miskimen@thegazette.com



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Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit; Jony Ive’s New Gig

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It’s the weekend! Before you sign off, let’s take a quick jaunt through some of the biggest tech stories of the week, including the U.S. government’s massive anti-trust suit against Google. Plus, Apple’s legendary designer has a new job!

Government Kicks Off Google Anti-Trust Lawsuit

On Tuesday, the Justice Department sued Google, accusing the search-engine giant of maintaining an illegal monopoly over internet search. It’s easily the largest anti-trust action to hit the tech industry since United States v. Microsoft Corp. more than two decades ago.

The federal government’s argument against Google is pretty straightforward. In essence, it’s arguing that Google’s agreements with Apple and other companies are choking off competition in the search market (for example, Google pays Apple quite a bit of money to make its search engine the default on the iPhone). For its part, Google might argue that it’s not dominant in search, given how consumers can freely use other sites to search for everything from products to information.

The company’s lawyers may also insist that Google’s position in the search market, while dominant, doesn’t actually harm consumers. “People use Google because they choose to — not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” said a Google spokesperson.

Whatever the outcome of the case, it could have as seismic an impact on the tech industry as Microsoft’s anti-trust case. Google’s lawyers have the fight of their professional lives ahead of them. 

Jony Ive is Now Working for… Airbnb?

Jony Ive’s impact on the technology industry is enormous. As Apple’s chief industrial designer, he created the iconic (and much-imitated) designs for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, the Mac, and the MacBook. When he retired in 2019, pundits wondered whether Apple would manage to retain its design mojo; there was also much speculation about what Ive would do next.

Well, speculate no longer: Ive has a new gig at… Airbnb, of all places. Now, you may question why a technology-enhanced house-rental company would solicit the services of the most famous industrial designer on the planet, and we’re here to tell you that…

Actually, we have no idea, either. Seriously, it’s weird. Given Ive’s predilection for minimalism, maybe Airbnb wants him to design a seamless white box in which guests can sit and meditate on aesthetics. Certainly Airbnb’s official statement on the hire, penned by CEO Brian Chesky, is no help when it comes to ascertaining the company’s tactical plans: 

“Today, I’m thrilled to announce that Jony and his partners at LoveFrom will be engaging in a special collaboration with me and the Airbnb team. We have made the decision to work together through a multi-year relationship to design the next generation of Airbnb products and services. Jony will also help us continue to develop our internal design team, which he believes to be one of the world’s best. I know he is particularly excited about a relationship that will evolve to become a deep collaboration with our creative team.”

Maybe this is a learning experience for Ive, too. Perhaps he’s decided to expand his portfolio from hardware designs to shaping experiences for guests. However this collaboration pans out, though, one thing is clear: Airbnb’s future website and app are going to look distinctive.

Quibi Flames Out 

Quibi, the company that burned through hundreds of millions of dollars in the belief that people want to watch five- and 10-minute television episodes on their phones, is shutting down after a mere six months. 

“Quibi is going to go down as a case study at Harvard Business School on what not to do when launching a streaming service,” Stephen Beck, the founder and managing partner of the management consultancy cg42, told The New York Times.

To be fair, Quibi did its best, using its $1.75 billion in investor cash to hire some of the biggest stars on the planet and create dozens of series. From a technological perspective, though, the service hobbled itself from the outset by restricting certain features, such as the ability to share clips on social media. Quibi won’t just be a business case-study; it might end up as a good example of how not to design an app.  

That’s it! Have a great weekend, everyone!

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Adele teases her upcoming hosting gig on ‘Saturday Night Live’  – Music News – The Black Chronicle

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Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagicFans are counting down the days until Adele officially ends her extended absence from television and suits up to host Saturday Night Live this weekend.

However, fans believe the “Hello” singer might have something up her sleeve and are predicting that she will use the platform to officially announce her fourth studio album.

Of course, Adele only cranked up the mystery when teasing her upcoming SNL appearance on Wednesday, posting a candid snap of her hard at work memorizing lines.

“3 days to go,” the British powerhouse singer noted in the caption. Fans are already hard at work picking apart any clues she may have left in the seemingly innocuous photo.

The candid snap shows Adele, 32, wearing a black face mask as she sits at a table with a push-to-talk microphone on it as she pores through her script.  It appears she’s also making notes due to the number two pencil she has balanced in her right hand.

While Adele previously admitted she was “absolutely terrified” to go on SNL, fans latched onto her saying that it “feels full circle” to return to the show as proof that she has something major planned.

The 15-time Grammy Award winner hasn’t released a studio album since 2015’s record-smashing 25.  A release date for her still-unnamed upcoming fourth studio effort had been set for this year, but was delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It is still unknown when Adele will release her new album and she has repeatedly told fans to be patient. But perhaps fans will finally have their long-awaited answer come this Saturday.

The musical guest for this weekend’s Saturday Night Live is R&B star H.E.R.

By Megan Stone
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Here’s What BC’s Three Main Parties Say They’ll Do For Precarious Workers Struggling in the Gig Economy

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Analysis

We asked three labour experts to take a close look at each platform

October 22, 2020