The Strange Origins Of Takeout And Delivery And Other Details That Most Customers Are Unaware Of

Nowadays, takeout and food delivery services are just a normal part of contemporary life, but their history is far more bizarre than you might imagine. Plus, it goes back a long, long time — far further than you might have expected. Let’s take a look at some of the weirdest and most surprising facts out there when it comes to these handy services.

1. Pizza delivery to space

Food deliveries tend to only be available within a fairly limited perimeter from their origin restaurants. But Pizza Hut once bent the rules by sending food off for a roughly 250-mile-long journey — skywards. At a cost of about $1 million, the company fired a pizza up to an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in 2001.

2. Ancient Romans loved takeout

Takeout might seem like quite a contemporary phenomenon, but its history is actually remarkably long. It was a big part of life for the plebeians and ordinary soldiers of ancient Rome, who would pick up meals from taverns and stalls. There’s even a reference to takeout in a work by Virgil, one of the civilization’s best poets. This is arguably the earliest allusion to takeout in recorded history.

3. A king and queen ordered the first pizza delivery in 1889

Arguably the first ever pizza delivery happened in the year 1889 — and it was sent to royalty. King Umberto and Queen Margherita requested a pizza from the acclaimed Italian culinary talent Raffaele Esposito, who put it together and had it sent to them. The toppings were simple: tomatoes, basil, and cheese to represent the colors of the Italian flag. The queen loved it, apparently, hence today why we call this pizza the Margherita.

4. The biggest order of all time

The biggest ever delivery on record took place a while ago now in 2006. Papa John’s was the company behind it, sending out an eye-watering 13,500 pizzas all in one go. The insane delivery went to thousands of San Diego shipyard workers and required 15 branches to meet the target.

5. India's huge lunchbox delivery network

During the 19th century in India, a man by the name of Mahadeo Havaji Bachche sought to address a problem. Laborers in the city of Bombay — which is now known as Mumbai — didn’t have many options when it came to lunchtime, so he came up with a new system to help. Called dabbawala, it revolved around delivery workers bringing food from people’s homes into the city where they were working. It proved successful and spread beyond Bombay, and it’s a service that continues to this day.

6. Oyster pails werent invented for Chinese food

The oyster pail is an icon of Chinese takeout, but that’s not how it started life. It was actually invented back in the 19th century with the intention of holding — as the name suggests — oysters. But when prices for the seafood item went up, producers of these boxes started selling them to other places, and before long they became synonymous with Chinese food.

7. People order food for one lazy reason

Why do people order takeout? According to a 2018 Grubhub survey, the reason nearly half of Americans will order in is because they don't want to cook themselves. After that, the next most common answers were to satisfy a food craving, to save time preparing and clearing up food, and to have a family dinner or games night. Bonus fact: almost 20% of people said they'd order food in after bringing home a new baby!

8. People don't like onions!

According to Uber Eats' 2021 'Cravings Report', one special request is made to restaurants more than any other: “No onions!” The other most common instructions customers left on their orders include “extra sauce” and “no tomatoes.” Interestingly, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Georgia top the list when it comes to pickiness; eaters these states add special notes to their orders most often. Meanwhile, customers in Montana, Vermont, Oregon, Idaho and Washington are the "politest," saying "please" and "thank you" on their orders more than other states.

9. Pizza was the first thing ever sold online

Remember the internet back in the ’90s? It was a strange but beautiful time of dial-up connections, floppy disks, and minesweeper. Well who knew that online food orders were also taking place as far back as then? According to a tweet from Pizza Hut, they sold a pizza online in 1994, which marked the first-ever online sale of anything.

10. America's most popular takeout items

Thanks to stats related to orders on Uber Eats, we have an insight into America’s favorite takeout orders. And maybe it’s no surprise to learn that, in March 2020 at least, French fries was the most-ordered item from the service. When it comes to dessert, cheesecake was at number one on the list.

11. Delivery fees don’t go where you think

When you order food for delivery, typically you’ll accrue a delivery charge amounting to a few dollars. You might presume this goes straight to the delivery driver, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Bearing that in mind, it’s definitely worth giving these people a good tip for dropping off your meal.

12. Korean food deliveries began in the 18th century

Food delivery is a practice that takes place all over the world, with each territory having its own history. In Korea, for instance, we can trace delivery services back to the 18th century. Records tell us that a cold noodle dish known as naengmyeon was being sent out for delivery as early as 1786.

13. Daily takeout habits

If you get takeout regularly, do you find that your order habits depend on what day it is? According to 2021 data from Uber Eats, there are some pretty interesting trends: on Tuesdays, for example, extra sauce is a popular request; Wednesdays see a lot of customers asking for no tomatoes; on Saturdays, people often ask to leave pickles off their orders, and on Sundays, spicy and crispy dishes are super popular. What do your weekly takeout habits reveal?

14. Domino’s used to be DomiNick’s

Food delivery has a long, varied history, but the form it takes now can be traced to Domino’s Pizza. During the ’60s this pizza place — which was originally known as DomiNick’s — started offering delivery, which is something not many other establishments were doing back then. The service, as we know now, eventually caught on.

15. America isn’t the biggest food delivery market

Food delivery is such a big part of American life — and that truth makes it surprising to learn the domestic U.S. market isn’t the largest in the world. That honor goes to China, which has seen its food delivery services explode in popularity over the last ten years or so. In 2021 the sector was worth over $27 billion... That's a whole lot of takeout!

16. Delivery robots and drones are here

The future of food delivery is set to look a little different to what we’re presently accustomed. Rather than human drivers, we might get our grub delivered to our homes by robots and drones. In fact, that’s already a reality in certain places. Domino’s in Texas and Australia have used robots to send out their pizzas, while in New Zealand the company has used drones.

17. 100 million Americans get food delivered every week

We’ve touched on how big delivery services are in the United States already, but the figures are wild. As per 2016 research from NPD Group. about a third of Americans get at least one meal delivered every week. And that’s the minimum, as some of these people might order more than once during a seven-day stint.

18. Modern Chinese takeout was born in L.A.

Chinese takeout as we know it today seems to have originated in Los Angeles. That claim is based on an advertisement from the 1920s, which was used to promote the Kin-Chu Café. Speaking of this establishment, the ad gushed, “The only place on the West Coast making and delivering real Chinese dishes.”

19. The U.S. food delivery market is growing

Food delivery services like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Door Dash are already a big deal throughout the United States, but they stand to get even bigger. According to some projections, within the next decade or so we’ll see the sector grow by around 20 percent. When we consider how big a market it already is, that’s an astounding margin.

20. The Aztecs had takeout

Takeout was available within the Aztec empire, where people could pick up some grub from stalls at a marketplace. The foods on offer could be easily consumed while people were out and about, with perhaps the most notable option being the tamale. Obviously, these things have stuck around until today.

21. Many “Chinese” takeout dishes originated in America

There are so many dishes people in America consider to be authentically Chinese which don’t actually originate from the country. Dishes such as Chop Suey, General Tso’s Chicken, and Crab Rangoon were first crafted by Chinese cooks, but inside the United States. They’re most certainly inspired by authentic Chinese cooking, but they’re definitely their own take on it.

22. New York seafood was once among the top takeout orders

When you think of takeout nowadays, your mind will likely drift to favorites such as pizza, Chinese food, or burgers and fries. But back at the start of the 20th century, seafood was up there with the most popular. That’s because laborers based in New York wanted nourishing meals during their workday, and seafood was widely available at the time.

23. TV forced restaurants to come to you

Back before TVs were widespread, restaurants could expect to receive lots of patrons of an evening. But once television entered the home, people started staying in more. The restaurant industry was facing serious trouble, which forced it to innovate. Attempting to keep business going, establishments started offering delivery, meaning people could get a nice meal while staying at home in front of their TVs.

24. Pizza Hut had a fishy special for its first Russian store

Different cultures obviously have different tastes when it comes to all sorts of things, but especially so with food. So, when an American company sets up overseas, it might need to amend its menu. That’s why Pizza Hut offered a pie with tuna, sardine, salmon, and mackerel in its first ever Russian branch.

25. Pizza Hut’s name was down to a lack of space

Pizza Hut has done a lot to create its own legacy, but its naming process was fairly lackadaisical. The first ever branch operated from a building without much space for signage. A name as short as “Pizza Hut” was the only thing that would fit, and that’s about as deep as it goes!

26. Delivery services boomed thanks to the suburbs

The end of World War II was really important for the development of food delivery services. That post-war period in America saw lots of people move out to the suburbs, which meant they were living further away from restaurants. Delivery then became a very important option for people who didn’t want to cook of an evening.

27. Domino’s delivery guarantees have caused trouble

Domino’s is a leader when it comes to innovation with delivery services, but sometimes it has gotten itself into trouble. It used to guarantee each delivery would be completed within half an hour, but that led to it getting sued. That’s because the short window of time available apparently left delivery drivers feeling compelled to try and make it to their destination in very unsafe ways.

28. Vegan food deliveries are becoming way more common

Tastes and habits are changing when it comes to food, and that’s reflected in the stats for deliveries. One major trend is the rise of veggie and vegan meals being requested, with such orders growing at an extremely rapid rate. As per Comfy Living, calls for cauliflower pizza, for instance, rose by about 650 percent from 2020 to 2021.

29. Online orders are bigger orders

Ordering takeout or delivery online is an ever-growing practice, but according to research by digital delivery firm Tacit it tends to result in far bigger orders. Pizza places typically see orders up to 18 percent bigger online compared to when they’re made over the phone, but for other cuisines the difference is even bigger. Maybe not dealing with a person directly means people feel emboldened to get more food than they otherwise would?

30. A pizza was sent up Mount Kilimanjaro

Pizza Hut has delivered to some strange places, perhaps most notably to the International Space Station. But even staying on Earth, the company has still sent pizza up to remarkable heights. It’s actually a Guinness World Record holder, because it sent food up to the peak of Kilimanjaro, which marked the highest-altitude delivery in history. Earth-bound history, at least.

31. Millennials and Gen Z spend a fortune on food

Ordering food for takeout and delivery is a popular thing among many demographics, but younger people tend to do it more often. As per research firm YPulse, millennials and Gen Z-ers spend a big whack of their income on these services, though they do tend to spend more on groceries. Still, it’s often a big part of their lives.

32. One in four delivery drivers admit to eating orders

If you’ve ever suspected delivery drivers of eating some of the food under their care, you were right. According to research by distributor U.S. Foods, a quarter have admitted to scoffing items down while on the job. It’s understandable, though, with all those aromas wafting around. It would take an almost impossible degree of poise to resist.

33. America has 1,500 ghost kitchens

A “ghost kitchen” is quite an evocative term, so perhaps the reality of what it means is slightly disappointing. The phrase refers to kitchens that produce meals exclusively for delivery. In other words, they don’t allow patrons to eat food on the premises. More and more of these places are popping up across America, with about 1,500 identified by the middle of 2020.

34. Domino’s has taken orders by tweet

Domino’s is up there with the leading innovators of how delivery services work, always seemingly open to trying new things. One particular experiment back in the mid-2010s saw the pizza company allow customers to order their food with a tweet. They just had to type out their order with the hashtag #EasyOrder and tweet it to @dominos.

35. WW2 vets demanded takeout pizza

When American vets were returning home from Europe, they brought a lot of their experiences back with them. It seems that troops based in Italy, for instance, had gotten a taste for the country’s amazing cuisine. This then led to a surge in the popularity of pizza delivery when they returned to the United States.

36. Pompeiis ruins feature a takeout restaurant

One of the ways in which we can uncontroversially say takeout was a thing in ancient Rome is by pointing to the evidence at Pompeii. This ash-covered, preserved city actually contains the remains of a fast-food eatery, providing archaeologists with a remarkable insight. This sort of establishment is called a thermopolium.

37. A hot new takeout trend

Innovations within food delivery services are developing all the time, and one that seems to be taking off is the use of voice assistants to help the process along. According to a study by, 14 percent of individuals have made use of one to help make an order as they drive a car. It’s definitely useful when your hands are taken up with something else.

38. The busiest food delivery days of the year

There are certain days in a given year when delivery services typically surge, but can you guess what they are? Well, as stated by a DoorDash report dating back to 2020, specific holidays see delivery services go into overdrive. Those occasions are Mother’s Day, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve. Does that sound right to you?

39. Meals on Wheels began in hard times

Meals on Wheels is a food delivery service, albeit not one that tends to spring to mind upon hearing the term. It traces back to 1950s Britain, which was a time of economic woe. Impoverished people in need of nourishment would be delivered a warm meal by volunteers. The service still exists in Britain, America, and elsewhere today.

40. One in ten Americans are making their own delivery meals

Nowadays, food deliveries don’t necessarily arrive fully prepared. There’s been a big rise in subscriptions to meal-kit deliveries, where a box full of measured ingredients arrives to a person’s home. This way, people can just throw the ingredients together with ease, saving time on cooking prep. As per website Beambox, a little under 10 percent of Americans receive these packages today.