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If you’re hungry on a Tuesday night and you’re in Dublin 1, you can go to the Deliveroo website and find 164 restaurants and takeaways available to deliver food to your door.
On the Uber Eats website, there are 48.
Over at Just Eat, you can choose from 222 food businesses serving your area.
At the moment, if a restaurant wants to offer a takeaway service, it’s supposed to get planning permission.
That’s because Dublin City Council tries “to prevent an excessive concentration of take-aways” so as to “promote a healthier and more active lifestyle” among other reasons, it says in the city development plan.
So how does the rise of delivery services like Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat fit into that policy?
Why Does It Matter?
Takeaways and restaurants “are regarded as two different types of businesses by the planning authorities”, says Christophe Krief, owner of CK Architecture, a firm that offers restaurant-planning services.
Takeaways cook food on premises to be eaten somewhere else, he said. “If a restaurant would like to offer takeaway services, planning permission would be required.”
A takeaway may cause noise pollution, with late-night customers, who can be drunk. The food might be eaten right outside too, on the footpath, Krief said.
Takeaways, as opposed to restaurants, also raise other issues around litter, parking access, and often needing a deep fryer and a ventilation system, he says.
The newer delivery services might cause similar issues, says Labour Councillor Andrew Montague, who chairs the council’s planning committee. Like competition for parking, for one.
Or linking up with the delivery services might mean a restaurant stays open longer.
“Often, you might get a restriction on a planning permission for a takeaway about the hours of use, but a restaurant mightn’t have those restrictions,” he says. “And then … might start kind of changing their hours, gradually creeping them up.”
Montague says he’s gotten complaints, not about delivery services, but about restaurants that have planning permission to operate as restaurants “but are actually operating as takeaways for all intents and purposes”.
There are a couple of recent planning applications on the council’s website from outlets seeking to keep their right to run takeaways.
On Hanover Quay, Boojum filed late last month for “retention of the ancillary takeaway element” of the restaurant, its application says. The council hasn’t decided on that application yet.
In August last year, the council refused to give the Maharajah restaurant on Clontarf Road permission for a change of use from a delicatessen and gourmet food store to a takeaway, another application shows.
When that decision was appealed, An Bord Pleanála also refused to grant the change of use, noting concerns about too many takeaways in the strip, and car parking.
Montague, the Labour councillor, says planning enforcement usually steps in if a complaint is made, but not if nobody says they mind a takeaway popping up.
That’s the same for all planning enforcement, he says. Is that fair or does it leave room for bias?
“It’s very difficult to have an alternative system to that,” he says. “You’d need thousands and thousands of staff to be roaming the city looking for infringements of planning permission.”
Another consideration is that, if something operates without planning permission for seven years, then it gets de facto permission, he says.
The Health Question
One reason listed in the city’s development plan for restricting takeaways is that it’s a way to promote healthier lifestyles.
There is some research behind that. “The literature suggests that consumption of takeaway/fast food is associated with the increase in obesity and poor health outcomes including some cancers, cardio metabolic disease and cardiovascular disease,” said Hayley Janssen, a PhD candidate at Liverpool John Moores University and a Registered Associate Nutritionist (AfN), by email.
“This is thought to be partly due to the unfavourable nutritional content of takeaway food; often high in sugar, saturated fat and salt. However, other factors such as increased sedentary lifestyle and consumption of convenience style foods at home are also at play,” she said.
Companies such as Deliveroo have made it possible to order takeaway food from virtually any type of restaurant, Janssen says. “Thus it is now harder to define what constitutes takeaway food, the quality of foods being consumed and their effects on public health. This is topical and fascinating area of research that requires further investigation.”
Robert Oxley, a spokesperson for Deliveroo, didn’t address questions about the planning issues around takeaway services when asked.
The company works with a range of restaurants and offers “a huge choice of healthy options”, he said, by email.
It has helped restaurants and takeaways reach new customers and has supported jobs, Oxley said.
James Galvin, the managing director of Marvin.ie, said it doesn’t – as a platform – have to request any formal documentation for the businesses it works with, outside of VAT details and business-registration documents.
It does monitor closure orders on the Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s website, though, he said. “We immediately suspend takeaways that we identify in such cases.”
“Ultimately we are a technology company that promotes food businesses that are on the high street and simply offer consumers a more convenient way to order the food they want,” he says.
“Ultimately consumers dictate the market and they must be trusted to make their own decisions, whether it be healthy or less so options,” he said. Convenience doesn’t have to mean unhealthiness, he said.