From brick-and-mortar to location-less restaurant : The spatial fixing of on-demand food delivery platformization

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

13 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Article number103820
Journal / PublicationCities
Online published16 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


Location has historically been vital to a restaurant's success. However, in the past decade, on-demand food delivery (ODFD) platforms like Meituan, Deliveroo, and Uber Eats have progressively increased their market shares, recently facilitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new circumstances, are restaurants still constrained by conventional locational factors, such as transport accessibility, customer proximity, and industrial agglomeration? How do ODFD platforms impact the geography of restaurants?

This paper innovatively offers a comparative analysis of the different spatial distributions of brick-and-mortar and platform-dependent restaurants. Based on the case of Nanjing, China, robust empirical evidence demonstrates how platformization has spatially affected the catering sector. Using data from the most popular Chinese ODFD platform, Meituan, we analyze the following spatial characteristics of the catering sector in the urban core of Nanjing: transport accessibility, density pattern, agglomeration degree, and horizontal and vertical locational patterns. The findings suggest that platform-dependent restaurants have reduced dependence on transport accessibility. Compared with traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, platform-dependent restaurants are more dispersed spatially, not only horizontally but also vertically. The digital turn in the catering sector is also noticeably associated with the rise of informal restaurants, such as ghost kitchens in vacant high-rise office spaces.

Research Area(s)

  • On-demand food delivery, Platformization, Platform urbanism, Foodification, Meituan, Ghost kitchens