Restaurants around Malta were hit to varying degrees by the unofficial industrial action taken by couriers working for the Bolt Food delivery platform on Friday and Saturday, with location, platform exclusivity, and reliance on takeaways all factoring into the impact.
The strike was announced on Thursday in response to alleged declining pay and worsening conditions. Couriers are either self-employed or are employed through an agency – Bolt itself does not engage couriers directly.
Some 500 couriers were estimated to have taken part on Friday, with a number continuing their action on Saturday. This was a marked increase over initial reports of 300 participants, as the couriers’ networks leapt into play.
BusinessNow.mt reached out to a number of popular takeaway establishments to see how the strike affected them.
All spoke on condition of anonymity.
One, based in Mellieha, says the impact was “tremendous”, with sales being around a fifth of a typical Friday.
“We are more of a takeaway than a dine-in place, so having so few couriers available drastically decreased our attractiveness to potential customers,” says the manager.
He says that being exclusively available on Bolt Food played a big role, as it left the restaurant totally dependent on the operator’s smooth functioning.
“If this continues, we will have to register with [main competitor] Wolt,” the manager says. “This would mean higher rates, and higher prices, but we cannot work if there is so much dysfunction.”
Another popular eatery based in Mriehel, on the other hand, reports that the strike actually improved their sales: “We are exclusively available through Wolt, which saw an increase in traffic as people were forced to explore alternative platforms for food delivery,” the owner explains. “We had new customers finding us for the first time, and we hope they will come back.”
For a Sliema-based takeaway, sales fell by around 30 per cent on Friday. The owner says the decrease was “very logical”, explaining that as the number of drivers available was more limited, the Bolt Food platform limited the range of deliveries permitted.
“The radius of delivery was narrowed to make up for the lack of couriers. For us, that had a very significant impact, but being very centrally located, it was less than what might have been seen by establishments further afield. Even a narrowing by 1km can be devastating.”
He adds that all the drivers who did not participate in the strike were “extremely busy” on Friday, while speculating that the negative press contributed to decreased demand on Saturday, despite enough couriers returning to work to get the delivery radius back to normal.
In response to the strike, Bolt Food told BusinessNow.mt last week that it is “working towards optimising the pricing that should have a positive impact on courier earnings within the next few days”.
“Our goal is to provide high quality service to our customers and best earning opportunities to our couriers,” a spokesperson said.
After the action, the striking Bolt couriers declared it a “success”, with around 95 per cent of the platform’s drivers participating. They claimed to have brought “almost all Bolt Food operations” to a halt.
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