Foodora or Deliveroo: The app as a boss?

The rise of digitally-mediated labor requires a deeper understanding of algorithmic management in work environments. The discourse surrounding the gig economy portrays platforms as lean, flexible and efficient. Gig-work companies promise autonomy and flexibility to their workers regardless of the contractual relationship between them. Platforms also often position themselves as providers of a neutral technological infrastructure and as an impartial intermediary.

The paper explores the interplay between autonomy and control in the app-based management of food-delivery platforms from an interdisciplinary perspective. We set out to understand how much autonomy is given to food-delivery workers and how platforms attempt to increase their control through technologies. We also ask what this socio-technical reality tells us about the contractual status of self-employed gig-workers. Using a qualitative comparative research design, we explored how appbased management is constituted in the case of the self-employment model used by Deliveroo and the employment model used by Foodora.

Despite significant differences in the contractual models these two platforms use, we found that spheres of autonomy granted to the rides overlap. Both platforms delegate autonomy over time scheduling, zone choice and a route of delivery. Our results show, however, that platforms use specific app-based techniques of control in order to influence riders’ choices and behavior. Platforms exert control over workers through statistic-based internal competition for shifts and bonus systems, informational asymmetries, and automated messaging system. We conclude that the autonomy promised to the riders is granted to them only when they meet the performance standards set by the companies. We also suggest that the integration of a worker in the app-based management structure could be considered a suitable legal criterion for defining the scope of labor law provisions in the gig economy.


Access the Research publication

Foodora or Deliveroo: The app as a boss?
Ivanova, M.; Bronowicka, J.; Kocher, E.; Degner, A. 'Foodora or Deliveroo: The app as a boss?'. Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, Working Paper.


  • Deliveroo, Foodora
  • transport
  • On-location platform-determined routine work
  • Germany
  • 2018
  • Research publication
  • autonomy, flexibility and control
  • English
  • Hans-Böckler-Stiftung (Research institute)
  • Qualitative research
  • Open access
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