The History Of Food Delivery: How Fast Takeout Became A Human Fact Of Life

Motorbike food delivery drivers on March 30, 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand. (Getty Images)

Whether you've got a craving for pizza, pot stickers, or pho, there's probably a restaurant that's willing to deliver that scrumptious treat to your door for only a few extra bucks, but that wasn't always the case. While it's hard to think of a world without restaurants, the concept of eating out or ordering in is a relatively modern fact of life.

Ancient Restaurants

Looking back, we can see some evidence of past cultures selling prepared food, like the Thermopoliums of Ancient Rome, where professional cooks prepared food for the working class, some of whom lived in small and sparse dwellings without functional kitchens. Still, the idea of sitting down at an impeccably decorated table and relaxing over a hot meal you don't have to clean up after didn't truly take off in the West until the 1780s, when Parisians established places of restaurer, where a person could "restore health" by eating.

In the United States, takeout food became somewhat common in the 1800s, when—like Rome—people who were struggling financially or simply traveling through could purchase premade sandwiches and salads from shops. Later, in the era of Jim Crow, black Southerners often had to order their restaurant food to-go because many didn't allow them to dine inside.

In turn, many black Southern women took to cooking and selling their own food to workers during lunchtime, with some finding notoriety and success in their business ventures. Gordonsville, Virginia even became somewhat of a destination for travelers as word of the best fried chicken in the region attracted Southerners and Yankees alike.