Food delivery group Just Eat Takeaway recorded ballooning sales – and losses – during the Covid pandemic as families shifted to dining at home.
The group, formed by the £6bn merger of London-listed Just Eat and Dutch group Takeaway.com last year, said sales soared 54% in 2020 but operating losses mounted to €107m (£92m) from €78m a year before.
Jitse Groen, the chief executive, said the delivery group had taken 588m orders in 2020 – up 42% – and he expected growth to step up again in 2021.
He said: “2020 was an exceptional year for Just Eat Takeaway.com. Right before the completion of the merger between Just Eat and Takeaway.com, the world was hit by Covid-19. This brought unprecedented challenges to our restaurants, consumers as well as to our organisation and staff, but it also created tailwinds for our business.”
In a veiled dig at UK-based rival Deliveroo, which is due to launch on the London Stock Exchange next month, Just Eat Takeaway said it was “the clear market leader in the UK, in terms of orders”, with growth in its delivery business “multiple times” that of its competitors.
The group said it expected to win more business in the UK, its biggest market. It said growth had been helped by an exclusive partnership with bakery group Greggs.
Despite the widening losses, Just Eat said it would continue to prioritise growth over profits.
The group manages online orders for 244,000 restaurants and takeaways and more recently began running its own delivery fleet. It is in the process of buying US-based Grubhub to form the world’s largest takeaway delivery firm.
It said losses had been partly driven by advisory and integration costs connected to the merger of Just Eat and Takeaway.com and the proposed deal with Grubhub, while courier costs increased 10-fold to €712m and staff costs quadrupled to €464m.
It hopes the $7.3bn takeover of Grubhub, announced last June but awaiting regulatory approval, will be completed in the first half of this year.
Richard Hunter, the head of markets at Interactive Investor, said there were “a number of potential clouds on the horizon” for the group. “The pace of acquisitions comes with integration risk, while the shares are extremely highly valued,” he said.
“Competition in the space is intense and, in the post-pandemic world, it is impossible to guarantee that its business model will continue to generate such strong growth as the easing of lockdown restrictions allow the global population to visit restaurants in person once more.”