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deliveroo interview case study

An international expansion case study: Deliveroo

This case study explores deliveroo’s global expansion strategy, why it was successful, and how effective business planning turned them into a global household name..

Origins of Deliveroo

After making the move from New York to London, Co-Founder, and CEO Will Shu was astounded to realize that it was very difficult to get ready-made food delivered to consumers. As a result, he made it his personal mission to bring restaurants closer to their customers. This led to the launch of Deliveroo in February 2013. Before going global, Deliveroo started as a small company in the US with very few sales and minimal stock listings. In its 3rd year, revenue grew to £18 million and the company began to grow and develop significantly. How much has Deliveroo grown?  

In 2021, Deliveroo won Best Beats First Category Company in the Real Innovation Awards. Moreover, it was crowned the fastest growing technology firm in the UK by Deloitte. Over the last 4 years, it has achieved an incredible growth rate of 107,117%. This year, the company is in the rankings again, proving that it has the momentum to maintain its steep growth trajectory.

Currently, the company is valued at US $2 billion (£1.5 billion), making it one of Britain’s most valuable private companies despite having recorded a gross profit of less than 1% in 2021. In addition, Deliveroo has raised over $900m since it was established, and this has given it the opportunity to expand in other countries. The company is growing at an extraordinary rate, partnering with thousands of popular restaurants to deliver great food to customers’ doorsteps.

What led to Deliveroo’s global expansion success?  

Without a doubt, Deliveroo is ahead of the competition since it heavily invests in resources that afford it a competitive advantage. To be precise, the crux of its success lies deeply in its prompt responses to customer demands and concerns, and this is made possible by its data-driven decision-making process.

The firm was also able to raise over $200 million (£132 million) last year, and this has partly contributed to its meteoric rise. Unlike its competition, Deliveroo has transformed the way consumers order food by making it possible for its customers to indulge in-home delivery from restaurants that were not making deliveries. Today, customers can get reliable and quick deliveries from more than 750 premium London hotels thanks to its massive network of 300 freelance drivers.

The efficiency and adeptness of the company can also be attributed to big data and machine learning. Dan Webb, the company’s VP of engineering, says that “ever since the company was established, the use of data has been pivotal to ensuring that riders, customers, and restaurants get the best possible experience.”

deliveroo interview case study

Deliveroo uses data in 3 key ways:

– To support team decisions . Constant experimentation has enabled the company to comprehend product changes. According to Webb, graphs and data help their operations team to comprehend and react to trends.

– To provide support for recommendations and decisions . The company uses machine-learning models that need to be retrained to make sure that the company is making decisions and recommendations using relevant and up-to-date information.

– To provide ‘real-time operational monitoring . Since Deliveroo’s operations are mostly in busy cities, connecting customers to restaurants and riders is always unpredictable. To overcome this, the company uses real-time data to identify and react to challenges that may arise.

By leveraging on data, their dispatch engine, ‘Frank’ is able to continuously calculate and match the ideal combination of riders and restaurants with customer orders. These predictions and calculations are based on machine learning algorithms trained to identify and react to challenges that may arise.

How many countries does Deliveroo operate in?  

Deliveroo has transformed itself into a global company that operates in over 800 cities and towns across 12 markets. These include Hong Kong, Belgium, France, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Spain, Kuwait, and Australia.

How many employees does Deliveroo have?  

Deliveroo has partnered with more than 140,000 takeaways and restaurants. It also boasts over 110,000 riders that provide food delivery services across the globe. Moreover, it has over 2,000 employees in offices around the world.

Challenges Deliveroo faced  

Shifting customer preferences  

The main aim of Deliveroo was to grow its market share by offering the best possible deals to its customers at an affordable price. Unfortunately, players in the food delivery niche have elevated the marketing game to such a level that customers are spoilt for choice. This made it hard for the company to build brand loyalty.

Volatile Market Prices  

Apart from growing its customer base, the company has also decried the high volatility of food prices. The company says that it has been hard to track and keep up with market prices, and this has made it difficult to implement an ideal pricing strategy.

Observance of Food Quality Standards  

Due to a massive demand for orders, delivering food to customers who are far away from restaurants while maintaining quality has been a challenge for Deliveroo. The problem is that the food served in restaurants and the one being delivered to customers create a significant loophole that the company is striving to overcome.

Managing Customer Expectations   

Regardless of the success that Deliveroo has had, it has been finding it hard to satisfy customer demands. The company has publicly stated that customer satisfaction is not just a matter of their delivery partners but also those working at the point of origin. As a result, it has been a challenge for the company to fill the gap that exists between restaurant workers and delivery partners.


Despite the challenges faced by Deliveroo, it has established itself as a big wig in the food delivery industry. And though it is yet to make substantial profits, we should expect the company to continue its growth, largely due to its business model and its ability to raise funds for expansion,

deliveroo interview case study

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How Deliveroo made training a natural part of the job using TalentLMS

deliveroo interview case study

“ Really intuitive, really user-friendly, really fast. ” MARCUS VERRI | GLOBAL SALES TRAINING MANAGER

What training looks like

deliveroo interview case study

admin handling it all

deliveroo interview case study

course completions/month

deliveroo interview case study

employees learning

deliveroo interview case study

About  Deliveroo

Deliveroo is a food tech company that connects customers with a wide range of restaurants, convenience stores, and supermarkets so they can get their food delivered on-demand. Founded in the UK in 2013, Deliveroo today works with more than 100,000 restaurants in countries all over the world, including the UK, Ireland, Australia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

We spoke with Marcus Verri, Deliveroo’s global sales training manager, to discuss what it feels like to  train various distributed teams in a fast-paced environment . And Marcus was clear from the beginning: 

“My goal is to provide employees with the resources they need, whenever they need them, so they can be successful at their jobs.”

Not an easy feat when you have to train around 500 employees in different markets.

The challenge:  making training more than a box to tick

Marcus was determined to build training that’s meaningful to his teams. To equip and empower them so they’re confident when they are pitching products or talking about the value proposition of Deliveroo. And, that was something training could help with. Except, not the training that was in place.

It seemed like interaction — or the lack of it — was the missing puzzle piece. 

“Our training was one-hour Google Meet sessions with hundreds of people connected. No interaction, no participation of the audience, and no follow-up whatsoever. No reporting, and for sure, no performance, no assessments, or anything like that.”

Plus, different markets were using different training tools — or, in some cases, no tools at all. This means that  employees didn’t get consistent training . Having one source of truth would help them find what they’re looking for immediately.

Marcus was already on the lookout for better training solutions until the world turned upside down.

How the pandemic  changed training at Deliveroo

In one way or another, everyone has been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. The food industry has, undoubtedly, been one of those hit the hardest. The lockdown forced restaurants to close or operate under strict social distancing guidelines. So, lots of them turned to delivery services. Some, for the very first time.

For Deliveroo, this meant they had to onboard new restaurants that were unfamiliar with food delivery. And they had to do so quickly. Also, as Marcus says, Deliveroo started creating a bunch of new projects, products, and services aiming to offer financial support for restaurants and help them thrive during the crisis. Their sales teams needed to know about all these initiatives.

But how? Until the crisis hit, they’d use Slack messages, Workplace Posts, or emails to inform teams about such projects. According to Marcus, though, they were not effective because:  “This is communication, not necessarily training.”

deliveroo interview case study

Marcus already knew he needed a learning management system to provide consistent training to all teams.  The pandemic created an even higher urgency.  The training content should be prompt and easily accessible to everyone, so Marcus decided to not waste another day before he found the LMS that could deliver the training his teams needed.

Why  TalentLMS?

Ease of use was the number one criterion  for picking an LMS due to the urgent training needs the pandemic caused Deliveroo. And that was exactly what drove Marcus to TalentLMS.

“One day, as I was working from home during the lockdown, my wife heard that I was looking to set up a new LMS as soon as possible. A few hours later she came to me and said we should probably pick TalentLMS. I asked her why. ‘Because I’ve already started using it.’ Indeed, she had already created a portal just like the one we have at Deliveroo with the same layout, the same colors, and the same look and feel. And she doesn’t even work in training. It looked amazing!”

Once Marcus tested that TalentLMS supported the functionality he wanted, he presented the solution to his leadership. He quickly got the green light, as the pricing was attractive, and  two days later he rolled out the first courses .

The engagement was pretty high from the get-go.  In April alone, there were over 600 course completions.  “You can tell that our teams were waiting for that for a long time. They were expecting to have one source of truth, to find quality content and actually manage their learning, and go back to the system in case they want to find it.”

But it’s not just the learners who find TalentLMS easy to use.  “The admin side is really intuitive, really user-friendly, really fast.”  For Marcus, who manages the platform, it’s easy to upload content, add users, and create and organize groups.

And then, there’s TalentLibrary™, too. A real time-saver according to Marcus. As the only admin for more than 500 learners, he values the off-the-shelf training courses that come with TalentLMS.

I need scalable solutions. There’s no way I can produce the content you have. For example, on my own, it would take me several months. MARCUS VERRI | GLOBAL SALES TRAINING MANAGER

How TalentLMS fits into Deliveroo’s  overall training strategy

The function of training and Marcus’ strategy at Deliveroo, is to  help people work better, not add extra work . He uses a mountain-climbing metaphor to illustrate his point.

“[My teams] aren’t here to train. They’re not here to learn. They’re here to work and to bring results, and I have to support them as they need. I picture this as if they are climbing a mountain, and they need to get to the top. I can be the right tools, or I just can just be rocks in their backpacks to bring them down, to make them stop working. So I need to be the right tools.”

deliveroo interview case study

For this vision of successful training to become a reality, Marcus relies on 3 pillars.

1. Understanding his teams’ routines

Marcus starts his process by understanding  what  kind of resources his teams need, and  when  they need them. And that goes beyond the necessary training employees should get when they’re hired. After that, it’s about learning what challenges employees face on the job and building training around those exact challenges.

“If I’m not adding value I’m just the rocks in the backpack. So what I need to do is to provide quality content that they can actually use. It really needs to be practical. They can use the content right after they finish training.”

2. Making training a natural part of what they do

How do they make sure that training is a natural part of employees’ day-to-day, and not an extra part of it?

“ I don’t believe that people will learn when I want them to learn. I prefer for them to engage with training because of the relevance of the content more than because they have to. So, I need to make resources available and easy to access whenever they need to.”

According to Marcus,  microlearning  helps in this case. Instead of having long training sessions that force people to stop their work for hours, he opts for smaller chunks of training. For example, he breaks down a one-hour training module into five or six parts, so people feel that they’re progressing. This way, it’s also easier to come back and review the information they need.

3. Putting TalentLMS into action

As Marcus puts it, his role is not to deliver training, but to deliver structure, standards, and value to his teams. Technology is the facilitator here. And that technology needs to help him deliver training in the smoothest possible way.

Employees need to find answers to their questions inside the training platform. Local markets could have their own unique challenges that are not relevant to another market. Managers might want to recommend specific courses after completing the performance reviews of their team members. Or, unexpected events, like a pandemic, could create new, urgent training needs.

The key in all these scenarios is to have  one single place where people can pick training that’s relevant and useful . Once Marcus saw that TalentLMS was able to be that source of truth, he made TalentLMS the official global sales training system. The result is Roo Commercial Academy — a space dedicated to each team’s training needs.

“People really like the way it works. And they find it easy. I actually did not have to answer a single support call, so they did not have problems using TalentLMS.”

deliveroo interview case study

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Deliveroo & TalentLMS:  Matching training with business results

The initial feedback after implementing TalentLMS was positive, with people signing into the platform and completing courses. And that’s a good first sign. But what’s the impact of training on people’s day-to-day work?

You can tell if training is successful, according to Marcus, when you see people changing their behaviors at work and teams reaching their KPIs. For example, instead of his salespeople jumping in on a call with a potential customer, they now use training material to prepare themselves first. They go to the product training inside TalentLMS , review all the information, and, as a result, engage and interact better with customers.

Numbers prove the story correct: 

“Since we launched TalentLMS, the number of calls from salespeople and account managers with doubts and questions about products, systems, and processes has decreased.”

That happens because they have one place to go and look for the answers they need, at the time they need them. And then they can focus on their actual work.

When it comes to KPIs, Marcus explains that, at Deliveroo, they look at both individual performance and the bigger picture. Their strategy is to create content that’s relevant to business goals. And then measure if people and teams reached those goals. For example, one of their goals is to sign up restaurants faster.

“This can happen if salespeople are feeling confident in talking about the products, are addressing the right questions to customers, and are closing their calls in a better way. So this is the kind of stuff that I teach them to do. And the sign-up time decreased by 30%. That’s how I know our training is successful. ”

For Deliveroo, that’s the bottom line of training. It’s not a perk, it’s not a box to tick, it’s not something independent from the work routine.  It’s the tool that helps people get better at their jobs.  

As Marcus puts it: 

“The tip here is to not force training on people, just understand how they need to learn, where they need to learn, and why they need to learn these things. And try to be a part of what they normally do.”

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deliveroo interview case study

“It’s always harder to change ways of working when that’s the way things have always been done… But I cannot begin to tell you how much easier it is now that we’re used to using Weploy”

Tarrady Prowse

Customer Care Manager

Founded in 2013, Deliveroo is one of the world’s fastest growing online food delivery services. With a mission to transform the way customers eat, Deliveroo today partners with over 14,000 restaurants and 8,000 riders to deliver great food to Australians across 13 cities.

How deliveroo created efficiencies in their on and offshore customer service teams by using weploy....

Reduced 2 hours 20 minutes of rostering time, into 10 minutes per week

Standardised staff quality, every time

Scale up support in minutes for a team of 20 onshore reps

The Challenge...


Hiring quality talent for values fit at Deliveroo involves a comprehensive series of calls and face to face interviews, each carefully designed to uncover those who have the kind of respectful attitude that complement their number one Company Value: “ Customer Obsession ”.

Tarrady Prowse manages Customer Care for the APAC region. Her and her team manage thousands of inbound enquiries coming in around the clock, from an extensive network of riders and restaurants, as well as customers. Each enquiry must be sorted, responded to, and escalated if necessary. Tarrady needs a team of self-starters with excellent verbal and written skills, whom she can rely on to act autonomously with sensitivity and accuracy. 

Using a rostering platform to manage the scheduling of 20+ Customer Service team members was a complex game of moving parts. A sizeable percentage of the team being students with shifting class timetables, the rosters required changes week to week, day to day. Tarrady was juggling requests for shift swaps that would come through via text, emails and late night phone calls, spending a minimum of 20 minutes per day on this kind of admin.

The Solution...

“now, i spend max 10 minutes a week scheduling. timesheets are sent to me which i can approve with one click, saving me all those hours reconciling individual shifts with invoices”.

Head of People at Deliveroo Kirsty Seaborne came across Weploy and recommended Tarrady give it a try. She was pleased to find it was easy and intuitive to use without any training or onboarding. 


The Benefits...

By putting their trust in Weploy for their short-term hiring needs, Deliveroo is able to put their Customer Centricity into practise. Consistent, quality support means that the Customer Experience is always a positive one. Using the Weploy platform means that admin time spent on scheduling has been slashed and Tarrady can focus on the things she loves most about her job - strategy, training and people management. Given the importance of the right kind of talent internally at Deliveroo, it is comforting to know that hiring managers can review past jobs and choose from Weployees who have previously worked and gone through the required training already. This has meant that up to three different departments are now hiring via Weploy, each hiring manager having their own access to the company dashboard, and feedback from all stakeholders has been positive. 

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deliveroo interview case study

How embedded insurance is changing the face of regulation & compliance ‍

Deliveroo: protecting gig workers and attracting new talent with insurance.

deliveroo interview case study

Deliveroo wants to protect its delivery riders

As an online food delivery platform, Deliveroo's business model has three major stakeholders: the customers who use the platform to order food, the restaurants that prepare the food and the delivery riders who transport the food to Deliveroo’s hungry clients.

Each day, Deliveroo riders set out into bustling city traffic to deliver their orders. Despite extensive safety guidelines and training, accidents do happen.

And since delivery riders are particularly vulnerable, Deliveroo needed insurance that would cover its riders in case of an accident .

Another consideration is that if riders are found to be at fault in an accident, they could be held liable and exposed to serious financial consequences. For an individual rider, it's very difficult to find a quality insurance product that covers their unique situation.

So Deliveroo decided that offering insurance to their riders was crucial , which gave the company a competitive edge, helped them attract even more talent and retain the best riders.

The goal was to roll out the delivery rider insurance to gig workers in Belgium, where the idea originated, with the hopes of expanding throughout Europe to France, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Ireland and the UK.

deliveroo interview case study

'Deliveroo riders are free to choose when, where and if they wish to work. We want to ensure that each of them enjoys optimal security throughout their experience with Deliveroo. Thanks to our partnership with Qover, we offer an insurance solution that reflects the flexible activity of our independent partners: innovative guarantees that meet the needs they express to us on a daily basis.'

deliveroo interview case study

Qover develops Pan-European gig worker insurance

At Qover, we leveraged our unique pan-European insurance platform – which handles everything from IT integration to a custom insurance solution to exceptional customer care – in order to connect the proposed insurance solution with the Deliveroo rider app.

As part of the process, our dedicated teams scoured the market to find the best insurance partner for this unique solution and identified Wakam as an ideal candidate.

Our customer care team – centrally located in Brussels – scaled at pace with Deliveroo’s growth while maintaining an excellent customer satisfaction score.

Thousands of riders covered across Europe

Our insurance platform allowed Deliveroo to scale its operations while maintaining a 90% customer satisfaction score.

We delivered a pan-European insurance solution combined with customer care available in 10+ languages, so that the company’s local offices were free to focus on what they do best.

After a successful first proof of concept in Belgium in 2017, we added six more countries in less than 30 days.

The partnership between Qover and Deliveroo continues to evolve: in 2021 and earlier 2022, Deliveroo added new sickness cover and parental benefits for France, Belgium and Ireland.

In 2022, we worked to make the claims process speedier for Deliveroo couriers by insourcing all claims through Qover’s team.

Today, close to 45,000 Deliveroo riders across five European countries are covered while working .

At Qover, we’re available in each country to help local markets with their specific insurance needs. For example, Deliveroo riders in France were having difficulty finding suitable insurance for their own bikes.

In response, we developed a dedicated product for this community with a flexible subscription model, offering monthly and yearly options.

With years of experience developing embedded insurance solutions for the gig economy , we help high-growth businesses like Deliveroo harness the power of insurance to protect their gig workers and attract new talent.

deliveroo interview case study

Related solutions

Accident & health, in a nutshell, the challenge: deliveroo wants to protect its delivery riders.

A group of Deliveroo couriers sitting and looking at the Deliveroo app

The solution: Qover develops pan-European gig worker insurance

Map of European countries where Deliveroo riders are insured by Qover

‘Deliveroo riders are free to choose when, where and if they wish to work. We want to ensure that each of them enjoys optimal security throughout their experience with Deliveroo. Thanks to our partnership with Qover, we offer an insurance solution that reflects the flexible activity of our independent partners: innovative guarantees that meet the needs they express to us on a daily basis.’ – Mathieu De Lophem, Former CEO Deliveroo Belgium

The partnership between Qover and Deliveroo continues to evolve: in 2021 and earlier 2022, Deliveroo added new sickness coverage and parental benefits for France, Belgium and Ireland.

Person on bike holds phone showing Deliveroo insurance through Qover

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  • Industry: Ecommerce
  • Location: London, UK
  • Customer since: August 2016

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  • On-demand delivery service Deliveroo switched to Fastly for a 7% improvement in global load time (and in some areas as much as 50%), translating to a 1% increase in site conversion.

Deliveroo Improvement With Fastly

About Deliveroo

Deliveroo is an award-winning on-demand delivery service founded in 2013 by William Shu and Greg Orlowski. Deliveroo works with over 16,000 restaurants, as well as over 20,000 riders to provide the best food delivery experience in the world. Deliveroo is headquartered in London, with more than 1,000 employees in offices around the globe, and now operates in over 130 cities across 12 countries, including Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

Customers all across the world rely on Deliveroo to find and order great food from their favorite restaurants. In a given area, there may be as many as 300 restaurants to choose from, and it’s critical that Deliveroo not only provides these choices quickly, but has the power to swiftly and securely move customers through the ordering process. The Deliveroo team wanted to enhance their previous CDN solution and they found that Fastly’s CDN resulted in 7% improvement in global load time (and in some areas as much as 50%), translating to a 1% increase in site conversion.

“Fastly absolutely helps ensure our customers are getting the best experience by allowing them to find the restaurant they want and check out as fast as possible.” Martin Phee , Senior Software Engineer, Deliveroo
“Even the slightest improvement in site performance and conversion has a major impact on our bottom line. By allowing us to meet customer expectations online, Fastly helps drive revenue and growth.” Dan Webb , VP of Engineering, Deliveroo

Deliveroo screenshot

Ultimate customization + scaling

Deliveroo needed to create redundancy to prepare for major spikes in demand as a result of restaurant promotions, or peak dining hours, but didn’t want to maintain servers that would mostly sit idle. Fastly empowers Deliveroo to scale when necessary while also giving them the ability to tailor their CDN configuration based on what they needed — such as setting up custom headers to migrate their restaurant order managers from their previous setup.

“Fastly enabled us to scale and customize our unique configuration based on our needs, giving us much better throughput and redundancy.” Martin Phee , Senior Software Engineer, Deliveroo

Deliveroo screenshot mobile

Reduced load times for global growth

Deliveroo’s global user base is growing significantly, and they wanted the ability to meet demand no matter where requests originate. With Fastly, they’re able to provide consistently fast experiences across the world.

“After switching to Fastly, time to first byte (TTFB) went down substantially, and any time we turn up a specific country on Fastly the site responsiveness is dramatic.” Martin Phee , Senior Software Engineer, Deliveroo
“With the number and strategic placement of Fastly’s edge servers, we’ve really seen increased site speed as compared to our previous provider. Deliveroo is very JavaScript heavy, so any improvement in those page load times makes a huge difference for the end user.” Martin Phee , Senior Software Engineer, Deliveroo

Secure online ordering

Deliveroo handles personal information — such as customer names, emails, and addresses —to ensure smooth online ordering and delivery, and needs to protect their customers’ privacy.

With Fastly, Deliveroo can terminate Transport Layer Security (TLS) at the edge of the network, ensuring fast and secure dining experiences.

“Fastly maintains all of our TLS certificates, making sure everything is up to date. Because we handle a lot of personal customer information, it’s critical that we have secure solutions in place to protect their privacy.” Martin Phee , Senior Software Engineer, Deliveroo

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Total control + support when they need it

With Fastly’s CDN, Deliveroo can create and deploy their own custom configurations, using Custom Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) to fine tune settings based on their needs.

When Deliveroo was just getting started with Fastly, they found it easy to engage with support, who got them up and running quickly.

“Fastly has worked out great; being able to manage our own configuration plus having the support we needed to get going was amazing. The Fastly support team got us up and running quickly, building us custom configurations to make for a smooth and painless migration.” Martin Phee , Senior Software Engineer, Deliveroo
“Migrating to Fastly was utterly painless — it’s great working with a group of knowledgeable, responsive individuals whether you’re engaging with sales or support.” Dan Webb , VP of Engineering, Deliveroo

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Riders Not Workers: Status and the Decision in Deliveroo

Unlike last night’s fixture, substitution proved to be the key to success for Deliveroo’s contention that its riders were not workers in Independent Workers Union of Great Britain v Central Arbitration Committee and Deliveroo [2021] EWCA Civ 952 .

This result appears to run counter to the apparent trend of extending employment protections, primarily through findings of “worker” status, to the gig economy. Why, then did Deliveroo reach a different result to Uber , and are there any wider lessons to be drawn from this episode?

The Case in Deliveroo

Unlike the other principal cases that have considered the employment status of gig economy workers, the underlying litigation in Deliveroo was not an employment tribunal case involving named Claimants asserting a particular status to claim personal employment rights. Rather, it was an application made to the Central Arbitration Committee by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), a trade union, to be recognised as the relevant union for collective bargaining purposes in a particular Deliveroo delivery zone.

A trade union has to seek recognition on behalf of workers for such an application to succeed. The definition of worker for such an application ‘ is in substantially similar, though not identical, terms to that of “worker” in section 230(3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 and other employment protection legislation ’ (para 5 of the Court of Appeal’s judgment).

The Central Arbitration Committee decided that the individuals for whom the IWGB sought recognition as the relevant trade union were not workers. In particular, the relevant contract under which the riders were engaged provided them with a relatively unrestricted right to engage a substitute to perform any accepted work. Although substitution was a relatively rare occurrence, the CAC heard evidence, and accepted, that it did take place on occasion in practice and was a genuine right rather than merely an artificial device to defeat a claim. This, in the CAC’s view, was ‘ fatal to the Union’s claim ’: a worker is required to engage in personal performance, and the existence of a genuine right to engage a substitute was fatal to that contention on these facts.

Judicial Review and Appeal

No formal right of appeal lies against a decision of the CAC under the statutory recognition procedure. Any challenge to its conclusions has to be brought via Judicial Review proceedings. The IWGB were granted permission to bring such proceedings on only one ground – whether Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to freedom of association, including ‘ the right to form and join trade unions ’) required an expanded interpretation of the definition of “worker” under this legislation that did not cause cases such as these to require personal service so rigidly.

The Judicial Review brought by the Union failed, and the matter came before the Court of Appeal. Again, the Union failed. Submissions in the case were made by the Union and Deliveroo as an Interested Party, with the CAC remaining neutral.

The Court of Appeal, like the High Court, concluded that there was no requirement to interpret the definition of “worker” more widely for the purposes of Article 11, and on that basis, the conclusion that was reached by the CAC was one that was open to it.

This is an unusual case, and it is worth treating it with considerable caution. The Court of Appeal’s decision is about the extent to which Article 11 required a more expansive definition of “worker” when dealing with trade union rights, rather than any wider consideration of the nature and extent of worker status in the gig economy.

In particular, the Court of Appeal was not concerned with whether the CAC’s findings of fact about the right to perform work via a substitute were correct. The Union was not granted permission to challenge these in the JR proceedings. More importantly, the CAC’s decision (and, it appears, the decision to grant limited permission to bring JR proceedings) predated the Supreme Court’s decision in Uber and ors v Aslam and ors [2021] UKSC 5 . The Court of Appeal (Underhill LJ giving the lead judgment) went out of its way to avoid expressing any view either way on whether it would have allowed a broader challenge to the CAC’s findings. Indeed, Coulson LJ, in a short concurring judgment, expressly held out that ‘ there may be other cases where, on different facts and with a broader range of available arguments, a different result might eventuate ’, and went on to identify a number of factors that indicate that this decision might be of relatively limited applicability.

This case is therefore unlikely to be one that advances the debate about employment rights in the gig economy particularly far, nor should it be viewed as deviating from the Supreme Court’s approach in Uber . However, it does restate, in terms that go beyond simply this particular case, the principle that a genuine and broad right to appoint a substitute can (in the right case) defeat the requirement for personal service essential to worker status.

Commentary by Benjamin Gray

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deliveroo interview case study

“It was intuitive and easy to run with - Juro was a godsend”

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1400 contracts

Scaling legal documents at lightning speed

Deliveroo is an online food delivery company, founded in 2013 in London, offering fast and reliable delivery which the customer can track on their phone, and it aims to bring great food direct to customers as fast as possible. Deliveroo listed as a public company on the London Stock Exchange in early 2021.

Juro provides the employee contract workflow to Deliveroo on an ongoing basis, and enabled the UK’s favourite online delivery service to issue 1400 legal documents to employees across 13 markets - in just two weeks.

Download this case study as a PDF.

The challenge: what did Deliveroo want to do?

Deliveroo’s HR team in the UK numbers around 20 people, with HR business partners distributed across the dozens of markets in which Deliveroo operates. Cameron Russell is senior award analyst at Deliveroo, responsible for implementing and maintaining compensation review processes and HR systems.

There’s nothing I could recommend for Juro to improve on - whether it’s for training, employee experience, or updating documents

Deliveroo has a dynamic global workforce that’s growing all the time, with Juro powering its employee contract workflow. But for its compensation review process, it encountered a problem. The HR team needed to communicate review letters to employees at scale and speed, and the system they had in place struggled to cope.

The team was ready to fall back on spreadsheets and use the prior system, but the review process had an extra layer of complexity: “normally you’re just reviewing salary, bonus and entitlements, and communicating a change,” Cameron explains. “But we varied and standardized our terms and conditions, which needs acknowledgement from the employee.”

Deliveroo needed a system that could communicate documents on a huge scale instantly, and track acceptances from recipients. As a longstanding Juro customer in the UK, Deliveroo knew Juro could help.

The must-haves: what must the solution do?

Deliveroo had clear criteria for the solution it needed.

  • Acknowledgements : HR had to know when employees had read the new terms
  • Digital letters : HR needed editability - frozen PDFs would introduce too much delay
  • Dynamic system able to handle content changes within documents, and clauses dropping in and out
  • Trackable eSignature to give certainty to the process
  • Analytics to track and manage the status of documents in real time

Its window for generating, distributing and securing signed contracts added time pressure too: the project needed to be completed within a few weeks.

The solution in action

Once they realised the gravity and the timeline, Cameron reached out to Juro. “We were already confident with the system, and with its security and so on – it sprang to mind as a viable option for what we had to do.”

Together Juro and Deliveroo began a two-week intense project at fast pace: building the letters and varied terms in Juro, agreeing their content, and generating the required letters for distribution and acknowledgment.“It was made very complex by us operating in multiple markets with different legalities around the notice periods and post-term periods; we were still agreeing the format and legal context throughout, market by market,” says Cameron.

The stakeholders built and tested at the same time, working through clause issues that arose, and ultimately generating the required letters. “The way Juro works meant that it was intuitive and easy to pick up and run with it.” The team didn’t need to fallback on spreadsheets, PDFs and emails: “that would have been far more rudimentary - this was a godsend that let us get what we needed.”

The user experience

Within days, employees began to receive letters digitally. “They received a signing link, jumped in there and signed it really fast. From a management perspective it was so easy for employees, from the initial round of letters to use the preview link, and jump in to see what was being signed,” says Cameron.

It was intuitive and easy to pick up and run with - Juro was a godsend

Juro’s documents are responsive on mobile, increasing ease of us; it even allowed the Deliveroo team to make amendments once the process had already begun, in order to expedite the process.

The results: faster, smarter, more human

“We found that everything was really easy to access and sign,” Cameron says.“The total number of letters generated was about 1400 across 13 markets in 2 weeks, and 300 of those 1400 letters were amended.”

During the process, multiple users were accessing the database simultaneously, amending letters, sending out links and checking signing statuses. “The product was robust enough to handle everything we threw at it: we were already under a lot of pressure, as if we didn’t have the letters out in time, people wouldn’t receive their pay changes on time.”

Deliveroo was able to secure acknowledgments for digital letters sent to employees that were dynamic enough to handle content changes and clause additions, with trackable eSignature and analytics to provide management information.

"My challenge is to roll out solutions that scale and are agile. What I have found at Juro is a level of dedication to client solutions that is second to none"

What’s more, “Juro was fit for purpose across all markets – we were even able to input foreign language versions, including Italian, Spanish and French. That was a great outcome - we could communicate with local markets and meet local legal obligations.”

The process was successful and repeatable for Deliveroo. “There’s nothing I could recommend for Juro to improve on - whether it’s for training, employee experience or updating documents, this solution definitely has lots of other applications. My challenge is to roll out solutions that scale and are agile. What I have found at Juro is a level of dedication to client solutions that is second to none."

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  • Open access
  • Published: 06 May 2024

Benchmarking the university campus food environment and exploring student perspectives about food insecurity and healthy eating: a case study from Australia

  • Jemma Keat 1 ,
  • Putu Novi Arfirsta Dharmayani 1 &
  • Seema Mihrshahi 1  

BMC Public Health volume  24 , Article number:  1245 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

Metrics details

To benchmark the university food environment and explore students’ experiences with food insecurity and healthy eating in order to inform interventions to improve access and affordability of healthy foods for university students.

A food environment audit was conducted on the university campus using the Uni-Food tool from April to May 2022 and was comprised of three main components, university systems and governance, campus facilities and environment, and food retail outlets. A qualitative study design was also used to conduct focus groups and semi-structured interviews with students to explore key themes regarding their experiences with food insecurity and healthy eating.

Macquarie University, Australia.


For the food environment audit 24 retail outlets on campus and for the qualitative component 29 domestic and international students enrolled at Macquarie University.

The university only scored 27% in total for all components in the food environment audit. The results showed the need for better governance and leadership of the food environment. The qualitative component suggested that the main barriers to accessing healthy foods were related to availability, pricing, and knowledge of healthy foods. Future intervention ideas included free fruits and vegetables, food relief, discounts, improved self-catering facilities, education, and increased healthy food outlets.


Improving governance measures related to healthy eating on campus are a core priority to strengthen the food environment and students identified pricing and availability as key issues. These findings will inform effective and feasible interventions to improve food security and healthy eating on campus.

Peer Review reports

Food environments are a collective of physical, socio-cultural, economic, political factors that influence the availability, accessibility, and consumption of foods and beverages [ 1 ]. Food environments can act as a facilitator or barrier to health, depending on the presence of ultra-processed, energy-dense foods and fresh food consumption [ 1 ]. The components of food environments include availability, accessibility, promotion and marketing, affordability, quality, convenience and governance[ 1 , 2 ]. Due to their influential nature, food environments can influence experiences with food, leading to food insecurity [ 1 ].

Food insecurity occurs when individuals or communities lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe, nutritious food for an active, heathy life [ 1 ]. Additionally, the scarcity of safe foods can contribute to poorer mental and social wellbeing for these individuals[ 2 , 3 ]. Food insecurity can be influenced by a multitude of complex barriers and enablers, including an individual’s food environment. Poor food environments which can exacerbate food insecurity and unhealthy dietary behaviours include those that have limited access to healthy, affordable food outlets due to unavailability or location, and the increased presence and promotion of unhealthy, affordable fast-food outlets which incentivise poor dietary practices [ 4 ].

Young people are more at risk of food insecurity due to the additional constraints that they are faced with during this transitional period including, sociocultural influences, living out of home for the first time and targeted marketing [ 5 ]. Additionally, young people may be susceptible to consuming unhealthy foods or skipping meals due to low availability and accessibility of healthy, fresh, and culturally appropriate foods on university campuses [ 6 ]. University food environments are complex and highly influential in shaping students’ dietary behaviours and experiences with food security [ 6 ]. In Australia, the prevalence of food insecurity had been estimated to be up to 15% prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our research has estimated the prevalence of food insecurity among university students during the pandemic in 2020 to be 42%, and up to 75% in international students [ 7 ].

Universities often have a variety of food outlets on campus however, these may be inequitable for students due to heightened pricing and low fresh food availability [ 6 ]. Over the past decade, many universities in Australia have shifted away from internally managed university cafeterias to commercial models within their food environments [ 6 ]. As these models are predominately economically driven, this increases the risk of inequities experienced by students in regard to healthy, affordable food options on campus. As students spend most of their time on campus, it is essential to provide a supportive food environment that enables and promotes the consumption of sufficient safe and nutritious food to adopt a healthy lifestyle whilst considering their socio-economic status [ 6 ]. Therefore, there is a need to assess the food environment and students’ experiences with university food environment to address food insecurity among university students.

To date, a number of studies have focused on student’s perspectives on food choices on campus, but not specifically examined their experiences with food insecurity in relation to the University food environment[ 8 , 9 , 10 ]. Thus, this research aims to benchmark the food environment at an Australian university using a validated comprehensive tool [ 11 ] and assess students’ experiences with the university food environment including their experiences with food insecurity and healthy eating. The ultimate goal of the research is to inform interventions to reduce food insecurity on campus and improve access and affordability of healthy foods for university students.

This study was conducted at Macquarie University, located in Sydney, Australia. The university is a public institution which has more than 44,000 domestic and international students enrolled across 100 countries. There are four main faculties across the university including then disciplines of arts, business, medicine, health and human sciences, and science and engineering.

Food environment benchmarking

Design and sampling.

The university food environment was assessed utilising the Uni-Food tool developed by Deakin University [ 11 ]. This tool was selected as it encompassed a multi-faceted approach which includes various elements of the educational food environment, rather than focusing on a singular component as evident in other assessment tools [ 11 ]. Due to the complex nature of university food environments, it is crucial to conduct a comprehensive assessment of this setting to inform future interventions [ 11 ].

The Uni-Food tool focused on the measurement of three main components of the university food environment including, university policies and governance systems, food retail outlets and campus facilities and environment [ 11 ]. There are a total of 68 indicators within the tool, across these components [ 11 ]. Within each section of the tool, there are 16 domains and 42 sub-domains which provide a comprehensive analysis of the university environment [ 11 ]. The retail outlets component of the audit was conducted in May 2022 and involved on-campus observations and brief discussions with retail staff of 24 food outlets on campus.

Data collection

A comprehensive benchmarking of the university food environment was conducted in April to May 2022 by three assessors from Macquarie University using the Uni-Food tool [ 11 ]. Data was collected based on policy audit, campus audit, assessment of campus food environments using the Uni-Food Tool by three assessors after completing a training session. Figure  1 depicts the process for implementing the University Food Environment Assessment (Uni-Food) tool.

figure 1

Uni Food Tool Data Collection Process

Students focus group/interviews

Design and recruitment.

Shortly after the Food Environment Benchmarking was completed, a qualitative study was conducted using focus groups and semi-structured interviews with students. The inclusion criteria to be participants were aged 18 years or older, enrolled as a student at Macquarie University, and identified as ‘food insecure’ using Six-Item Short Form Food Security Survey Module [ 12 ]. Demographic data was also collected as part of the pre-screening survey which identified age, enrolment status, student status (domestic or international), and race/ethnicity.

Recruitment of students to took place from August to September 2022. Participants were recruited using various methods, including university communications, social media advertisements, and student associations. Participants were asked to provide informed consent to participate in the study using a Digital Patient Information and Consent Form (PICF). The research team contacted them via their nominated student email as provided in the contact details section of this form.

Focus groups and interviews were conducted between 12th August 2022 and 9th September 2022 either online or in person. Focus group and interview sessions lasted between 45 and 60 min and were digitally recorded using Microsoft Teams. Each focus group session consisted of three to five participants. Domestic and international students were allocated to separate sessions to ensure that the conditions were supportive of their enrolment status and potential language barriers. Open ended questions were asked during these sessions to allow students to discuss their experiences and ideas in regard to food insecurity and healthy eating on campus (Supplementary Material S1 ).

Data analysis

Food environment analysis.

For all components of the Uni-Food tool, scores from all three assessors were then reviewed by the Uni-Food team at Deakin University who determined a final score, this was to improve the reliability of the results and reduce reporting biases. If any major discrepancies were identified amongst assessors, the reviewer then used the evidence supplied to make a final decision on the score.

Student focus group/interviews

Qualitative data from the focus groups and interviews was analysed using the NVivo 12 analytical software. A reflexive thematic analysis approach was undertaken as this method is effective in understanding experiences with increased flexibility in comparison to other methods which follow specific theoretical frameworks. The six steps of reflexive thematic analysis were utilised to analyse the datasets, including data familiarisation, coding, themes, and review of themes, and definitions [ 13 ].

The transcriptions were checked for accuracy against the audio recordings. The transcripts were then coded after they were initially reviewed to identify key themes and ideas from students in relation to various concepts discussed during the sessions. Codes were allocated to highlight students’ feelings and experiences with food insecurity and healthy eating on campus. These were then further refined through a secondary review of transcripts and coding.

Following this, the codes were reviewed and grouped together based on the broader concept of each code to create a wider theme as emerged throughout the sessions. After refinement of the themes, a further analysis of each theme was conducted to understand the deeper meaning and ideas shared by students. A total of 8 themes were included in the final analysis, with a total of 30 sub-themes as outlined in Supplemental Figure S2 .

According to the Uni-Food analysis, Macquarie University scored 27 out of 100 (27%) in total. Food retail outlets scored 45 out of 100 (45%), campus facilities and environment scored 41 out of 100 (41%), and university systems and governance only scored 4 out of 100 (4%). These results are concerning and highlight the significant gaps within each component of the university food environment, particularly within the university’s governance system as the lowest scoring component.

University systems and governance

This component scored 4 out of 100 (4%), which was the lowest scoring component overall and held a weighting of 40%. The university has implemented sufficient sustainability frameworks however, these did not have a focus on food, this is highlighted within leadership and planning (25%). Additionally, there were no university-wide policies that aimed to govern the procurement of healthy foods and beverages on campus. Stakeholder engagement was absent and there were no strong partnerships relative to healthy eating on campus. These results are shown in Fig.  2 .

figure 2

University systems and governance results

Campus facilities and environment

This component scored 41 out of 100 (41%) and held a weighting of 40% as outlined in Fig.  3 . The highest scoring domains was availability and accessibility (97%), whereas the lowest scoring domains was equity (18%). Whilst this score highlights the needs for improvements, some key strengths were identified in this component, such as the availability of culturally diverse food on campus, free drinking water widely available across campus, the availability of self-catering facilities at some dedicated location on campus. Moreover, the university also has strong waste management practices in place, including separated bins and sorting processes to ensure recycling occurs, as well as adequate personal and community development initiatives, including a community garden for students and the community. There were also evident educational initiatives regarding sustainability and healthy diets however, these were driven by student groups with limited involvement from the university.

figure 3

Campus facilities and environment results

Food retail outlets

This component was the strongest of all components within the audit and scored 45 out of 100 (45%), with a weighting of 20%, highlighted in Fig.  4 . The highest scoring domains was promotions (79%), whereas the lowest scoring was information (14%). Promotions were a key strength as 15 out of the 24 food outlets (62.5%) were free from any promotions of unhealthy foods and beverages. In majority of the food outlets on campus, prices equally encourage the purchase of unhealthy and unhealthy foods as well as vegetarian and meat-containing options. Whilst there is no strong incentive to opt for the purchase of healthy and vegetarian foods, there is no significant encouragement to purchase unhealthy options which can be considered a strength.

Approximately 10 of the 24 food outlets sold predominantly unhealthy foods or beverages, with the remaining 14 offering either majority healthy options or a combination of both healthy and unhealthy food options. Most food outlets lacked sufficient nutritional information and only 14 of the 24 outlets provided very limited information on dietary requirements and common allergens. A significant gap was highlighted within the waste management domain as whilst many outlets utilised recyclable or reusable packaging, no food outlets had established waste monitoring and strong reduction systems.

figure 4

Food retail outlet results

Student focus groups and interviews

Demographic characteristics.

A total of 48 participants completed the online screening survey and provided informed consent. After following up with the participants who had initially registered to participate, a total of 29 students were included in the analysis, with 17 (58.6%) were postgraduate students, and 12 (41.4%) were undergraduate. There were 13 (44.8%) domestic students and 16 (55.2%) international students with age range between 18 and 36. Participants’ ethnicities included Asian (34.5%), Australian (17.2%), Indian (10.3%), Indigenous (10.3%), and others including Arabic, British, Scandinavian and Sri Lankan (22.7%).

Results from the qualitative component of the study were grouped into themes (1) Healthy food options on campus (2), Influences of food choices on campus (3), Changes in eating habits since starting at university (4), Impacts of COVID-19 on eating habits (5), Health impacts of food insecurity (6), Barriers to accessing healthy food (7), Views on current university support, and (8) Future intervention ideas. Representative quotes for each theme and sub-theme are shown in Table  1 .

Healthy food options on campus

Students mentioned that the most prominent opinions regarding healthy food on campus were those that contained either fruits or vegetables. Retailers predominately offering salads or sandwiches were perceived as an initial healthy option, as they contained vegetables and lower carbohydrate options. Food safety was also raised including unclean facilities, poor food preparation and presence of contaminants. When asked what they perceive to be healthy on campus (apart from mentioning food outlets), some students mentioned that nutritional composition and nutrient balances came to mind. Portion control and balanced composition of protein, carbohydrates and fibre were discussed. The consumption of unhealthy foods in moderation was raised as a concept of healthy eating at university in the absence of healthy food outlets.

Influences of food choices on campus

Students were asked to discuss what may influence their choices when purchasing food on campus. Key barriers to purchasing and consuming healthy foods were highlighted throughout the discussions; these were predominantly focused on price and nutritional quality. Social factors such as peer influences and culture were raised by students as an impact on their eating habits as they may be more likely to consume what their peers are eating, or foods deemed culturally safe. Students also discussed foods with nutrients that supported them with energy to focus on their studies. They discussed time and location as large influences on their choice of food whilst on campus, which demonstrates that convenience has a major role in food consumption. The most prevalent influence on student food choices was pricing as many options were too expensive for students in general. Additionally, taste preferences were highly influential in food choices and consumption for students as they wanted to eat foods with appealing taste.

Changes in eating habits since starting at university

To further understand how eating habits may be altered as a university student, students were asked to discuss any changes that have occurred since starting their studies. Any factors that have influenced their eating habits since becoming a student were also mentioned including time constraints and the availability of foods around campus. Due to the time commitments and class schedules many students were not able to spend as much time as they wanted cooking and preparing healthy meals. As a result, students were now more likely to purchase convenient foods deemed unhealthy such as processed fast foods. Energy requirements needed to sustain their studies since being at university were raised.

Impact of COVID-19 on eating habits

To gain an understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on student eating habits and experiences with food insecurity, students were asked to share any changes that may have occurred during this time. Students discussed difficulties with accessing grocery stores during the lockdown period due to store closures and travel restrictions. They also reported issues with finding stock of healthy foods during the pandemic, leaving students to rely on unhealthy options that were available. Furthermore, the frequency of meals throughout the day may have been altered to ensure food lasted for longer. Pricing of foods during the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed by students as a large issue. As a coping mechanism, students mentioned that they were living on cheaper foods which had less nutritional value. Some students reported being more health conscious during the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast to negative impacts of the pandemic, having time during lockdown periods allowed students to develop their capacity and gain skills with cooking and food preparation.

Health impacts of food insecurity

Students discussed health impacts arising from their experiences with food insecurity which comprised of physiological and psychological changes. The physiological health impacts of food insecurity were raised during the focus group and interview sessions, including weight loss and gain, loss of energy, nutrient deficiencies, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues. Students also discussed the mental impacts of food insecurity, including feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, and stress. This was also due to the increased prices of some healthy foods, resulting in frustration.

Barriers to accessing healthy foods

As students were previously asked to share the influences on their eating habits during COVID-19, and since commencing at university, an overview of the generic barriers was captured to inform future initiatives. Students mentioned that healthy options are often more expensive than unhealthy options which prevented them from eating better. Particularly, fresh fruits and vegetables as these were expensive to purchase and alternatively, students chose frozen options as they were more affordable. International students were impacted by pricing as they also had lower incomes due to restricted employment as well as those needing to provide for their family. Location of supermarkets and food outlets was a significant barrier as students would be less likely to purchase healthy foods if they had to travel a longer distance to access them. Limited options of healthy foods were also reported to influence students’ dietary behaviours. In terms of food literacy, insufficient food, and nutrition knowledge made them more susceptible to nutrition misinformation. Additionally, lack of food preparation and cooking skills were raised as a concern.

Views on current university support

Nutrition education within the university environment and curriculum was discussed by some students as they felt as though materials covered in tutorials or lectures provided knowledge and skills relative to healthy eating. Students discussed the food relief boxes that were available to students who were impacted by food insecurity. Although some students who experience food insecurity and accessed these boxes found them helpful, the contents were mostly canned and packaged goods which students perceived to be less healthy. Other students mentioned that they were not aware of the food relief boxes as they were not widely advertised, and the collection period was limited. Some students reported grocery vouchers provided by the university during the COVID-19 pandemic to help those who experienced food insecurity to purchase basic needs.

Future intervention ideas

Nutrition education emerged as a prominent theme for future initiatives as some students expressed the need to gain knowledge and awareness of healthy foods. Students suggested that statistics and detailed information on the benefits of healthy should be available online on the university’s website to encourage healthier food consumption. Additionally, students expressed that if the food outlets on campus displayed nutrition information including energy and macronutrient contents, it would allow students to know what they are consuming. Students felt free fruits available all year on campus would be beneficial, rather than having these available for shorter periods.

Students mentioned that the healthy options on campus were quite expensive, however if discounts were offered by the university, this would make purchasing these options more affordable and appealing. Reward schemes and food vouchers were also discussed where students would get a discount after purchasing from an outlet. Self-catering facilities, including food preparation amenities such as toasters and microwaves across campus were mentioned. Students felt as though having a communal area and equipment to support students with food preparation, would encourage them to bring healthy food from home whilst also allowing them to build capacity and skills regarding food preparation. Having a canteen on campus that offered ready-made healthy meals would also improve healthy eating.

Students discussed the governance of food available at the university through policy implementation. A policy on healthy eating was raised as a beneficial initiative to improve the health of students, this could also be focused on sugar regulations. Policies and monitoring relative to food safety to ensure food is safe and adheres to high standards was also raised. In addition to other interventions suggested by students, increasing healthy food outlets on campus, including a small grocery store would be helpful to purchase healthy snacks and fresh produce. Farmer’s markets on campus were discussed by students as these would encourage students to purchase fresh produce and encourage sustainability.

The current study aimed to comprehensively assess the university food environment and collect university students’ perspectives to inform interventions improving healthy eating and addressing food insecurity. The food environment benchmarking indicated the significant gaps within each component of the university food environment, particularly within the university’s governance system. Students reported a range of barriers to accessing healthy foods on campus.

Low scores in the food campus environment suggest that improvements are needed in the governance of the food environment through leadership, food retail policies and increased availability of affordable food options. There were no university-wide policies or frameworks identified that mentioned food or healthy eating, despite having a focus on sustainability. Previous literature highlighted that most university-wide governance documents within Australia and New Zealand predominantly focus on waste management which is consistent with findings from the food environment audit at Macquarie University [ 14 ]. Stakeholders within the university also had little to no involvement in improving the healthiness of the food environment on campus.

To improve the equity of the food environment, pricing requirements could be introduced for food retailers to ensure that a range of healthy and environmentally sustainable food options are affordably price and incentivised for consumption. Another measure to improve equity would be to implement policies that require all food retailers to display easily interpretable nutrition and sustainability labelling for all products, which would also improve capacity and education about these foods [ 15 ]. Despite the identified gaps within university governance, the university should consider building on existing efforts within community and personal development through further education and self-catering facilities to improve food preparation capacity as the results suggest that this could empower and enable students to access and consume healthier foods.

Perceptions of young people are often underrepresented and are not included in consultations for change despite them being interested in involvement, therefore, limiting the efficacy of future interventions [ 16 ]. Studies have revealed that engagement with young people is essential for transformation and meaningful change due to their influence and insight into contemporary issues[ 16 , 17 ]. Many studies have previously assessed this topic with a singular approach, including an audit without student consultation or qualitative consultations without a comprehensive assessment of the environment [ 18 , 19 , 20 , 21 , 22 ]. The current study utilised a combined approach to holistically assess the university food environment. The assessment of multiple components of the food environment allows for a comprehensive review to determine key facilitators and barriers, including individual and physical factors [ 23 ].

During the qualitative component of the study, students discussed the wider influences of their food choices whilst on campus, including socio-cultural factors such as peer influence, nutritional quality of foods, time and location, price, and taste. These findings were consistent with previous research that found university students to consume unhealthier foods knowingly due to the convenience, lower price point and peer influence [ 24 ]. Additionally, students reported that taste preferences had a large impact on their food choices whilst on campus as they were less likely to consume healthier foods which were less appealing. Individual influences including personal beliefs and preferences, self-discipline in conjunction with external influences from their peers and environment are known to have a significant effect on a student’s dietary behaviours, which align to the discussions from this qualitative component of the study[ 25 , 26 , 27 ].

Since starting at university, many participants, particularly international students, discussed major changes to their eating habits, including the shift from preparing meals at home to purchasing more processed meals. These findings are consistent with prior studies as many students have shifted towards a westernised, processed diet since commencing at university, particularly displaced students who have experienced disruptions to their studies due to a crisis or major change in their lives[ 28 , 29 ].

Students also discussed the decreased frequency of meals due to class schedules and study commitments throughout the day, which aligned with prior literature suggesting that dietary intake of first year university students had rapidly declined in comparison to before commencing their studies [ 30 ]. Despite this, many students felt they had still met their nutrient requirements as some often ate larger meals or binged on foods, at single points throughout the day which is commonly seen in students [ 30 ]. Students also reported that they needed to consume foods that would provide them with energy to sustain their studies as it would assist them in achieving better academic outcomes. Healthier diets, including adequate fruits and vegetables intake were identified to be correlated with improved focus, memory, mood and academic outputs[ 31 , 32 , 33 ].

When asked to discuss their experiences with healthy eating and food security throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, participants mentioned that access to food and pricing were the main barriers. Government lockdowns impacted the ability to access supermarkets and participants were restricted to their local areas which may not have had healthy options readily available due to supply issues[ 34 , 35 ]. During these times, many participants mentioned that they consumed less foods or consumed unhealthier options due to pricing to balance their finances in the absence of a stable income [ 35 ].

Apart from discussing negative impacts, participants also discussed the positive changes in their dietary patterns and capacity due to increased time to build and develop food preparation skills. Due to restaurant closures, many students opted to spend time cooking their own healthy meals which they did not report doing prior to the pandemic. These results are similar to a study conducted in Brazil, revealing that 70% of participants had increased their cooking skills during the pandemic, using mostly fresh ingredients [ 36 ]. These findings were also consistent within an Australian context as home cooking and experimentation occurred during the pandemic, leading to improved food literacy [ 37 ].

The most common themes related to health impacts were physiological and metabolic changes, including weight gain and loss, headaches, increased stress and body image concerns. Whilst many studies have focused on the psychological impacts of being food insecure, including depression and anxiety, these often lead to physical outcomes which can have a detrimental impact on a young person’s health[ 38 , 39 , 40 ]. Students who consume an insufficient quantity of nutritionally adequate foods, may experience malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies, and energy loss [ 40 , 41 ]. Students who consume processed, fast foods as a coping mechanism may be at risk of obesity and other chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease[ 38 , 39 ].

The key initiatives discussed to improve food security and healthy eating were university nutrition education, food relief boxes and vouchers, free fruits on campus, increased healthy food outlets, discount and reward schemes, food preparation facilities, and improved food governance. Food relief boxes were beneficial as they assisted students with immediate relief to ensure that they did not experience hunger, however, they felt as though the contents were not supportive of healthy lifestyles due to the absence of healthy, fresh foods, these discussions were consistent with prior findings[ 42 , 43 , 44 ].

In contrast to this, students discussed discount schemes and food vouchers for supermarkets to be beneficial in promoting healthy eating as they were able to purchase fresh produce whilst encouraging food preparation skills. Self-catering facilities on campus including microwaves, toasters, and communal spaces would also promote healthy cooking [ 45 ]. Free fruits and outlets offering fruits and vegetables on campus were identified as an ideal option to encourage healthy snacking, especially during university events where unhealthy food would otherwise be promoted[ 41 , 42 , 46 ].

Additionally, participants also raised that governance of the food environment may be required to ensure food safety standards are withheld alongside regulations of unhealthy foods. Studies have revealed that universities in other countries have implemented legislation regarding unhealthy food and beverage taxations, marketing restrictions, subsidies on healthy options, these can assist in preventing non-communicable diseases [ 47 , 48 ].

Strengths & limitations

This study had various strengths which allowed for an accurate investigation and representation of students’ experiences with healthy eating and food insecurity. Using food environment analysis was a strength as data was collected by three assessors individually which was then cross-referenced and validated by an external, independent experienced team of researchers from another university for validation and to decrease reporting biases. Both the focus groups and semi-structured interviews were exploratory and allowed students to discuss their experiences in detail with limited guidance. Whilst the general topics were guided by the facilitator, there was flexibility in the discussion and this approach allowed students to share their views, attitudes, and ideas without any restrictions. By dividing students into two groups based on their student status, it prevented any contentious discussions due to different experiences and vulnerability of these populations throughout the pandemic due to differences in government support.

This study had some limitations within both components. The Uni-Food tool does not consider the proximity of the university to shopping centres, the presence of a nutrition and dietetics department, and food outlets that serve alcohol on campus. These factors may influence the score and affect the healthiness of the university food environment. The use of purposive sample to recruit students identified as food insecure for focus groups and semi-structured interviews was another study limitation, which may not reflect other students’ experience who are deemed to be food secure. Moreover, changes in eating habits during the pandemic and since commencing university were self-reported narratives which may present reporting and recall biases.

This study highlights the need to comprehensively measure the food environment and consult students to identify the key barriers and enablers of healthy eating and food insecurity. Availability, pricing, location, taste preferences, knowledge, convenience, and nutritional quality of foods were influential factors to improve healthy eating on campus. The benefits of short-term assistance in accessing foods provided by the university were deemed to be limited. The direction of future interventions on campus could build on the existing efforts to ensure that relief options are sustainable and supportive of students’ healthy lifestyles through discounts, food preparation facilities. policies, and education. Additionally, the university should conduct further consultations with a wider sample of university students and stakeholders to determine the feasibility of these potential interventions to ensure that they will be effective in improving healthy eating and reducing food insecurity for students on campus.

Data availability

The data presented in this study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


Coronavirus Disease 2019

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The authors acknowledge Dr Davina Mann, Dr Sarah Dickie and Prof Gary Sacks of the Global Centre for Preventive Health and Nutrition, Deakin University who analysed data collected using the Uni-Food Tool and Carla Lopes for assisting with the data collection.

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Jemma Keat, Putu Novi Arfirsta Dharmayani & Seema Mihrshahi

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SM conceptualised the study and together with JK developed the methodology. JK with the assistance of PNAD collected the data. JK analysed the qualitative component and wrote the original draft. All authors contributed to review and editing of the draft.

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This study was granted approval from the Deakin University Ethics Committee (HEAG-H 180_2020) for the Food Environment Benchmarking and Macquarie University Human Research Ethics Committee (Reference Number: 520221186039979; Project ID: 11860) for students focus group/interviews. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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