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Dinner Bell vs. Doorbell: When Mom and Dad Cook, the Kids Send for DoorDash

Dinner Bell vs. Doorbell: When Mom and Dad Cook, the Kids Send for DoorDash

Shelley Jones Davis was preparing a meal for a family gathering at her home in Tacoma, Wash., on a recent Sunday evening when the doorbell rang.

Ms. Davis was surprised—and annoyed—to find that her 15-year-old daughter, Maggie, had made her own dinner plans, featuring Thai food delivered by DoorDash Inc.

“But your cousins are coming over, and I’m making chili!” Ms. Davis told her teenager.

Ms. Davis, a sales manager for a mobile-phone maker, thought Maggie’s delivery habit had been curbed after frequent orders had drained Maggie’s debit-card account. But cash gifts during the holidays had restored her finances. Her mom imposed a new rule: No delivery orders without advance parental approval.

Companies such as DoorDash,

Grubhub Inc.


Uber Technologies Inc.’s

Uber Eats have opened up a smorgasbord of new cuisines for delivery, giving young people new ways to subvert parental efforts to organize family meals.

Rita George-Tvrtkovic, an associate professor of theology living in Chicago, recently offered to make bacon and eggs for her 15-year-old son and three friends of his who had stayed the night. They said they weren’t hungry. An hour later, an Uber Eats courier arrived with a load of tacos.

“Don’t they know mom’s food is better?” Ms. George-Tvrtkovic says.

Her son, Luka, says his friends prefer delivery. They paid for the order.

Teenagers say they love the sense of control of ordering up food from someone other than their parents.

Michael Singer and his mother, Dena Singer.


Singer Family

“I can do it any hour. For sleepovers, we’ll have


at 1:30 in the morning,” says Michael Singer, a 17-year-old who lives in Wayne, N.J. He orders through accounts paid for by his mom, Dena Singer.

“They are all on these apps. Us parents are paying,” says Ms. Singer.

She came home one recent weekend to find Michael had used DoorDash to conjure up a date night of fettuccini Alfredo and penne alla vodka for his girlfriend.

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Have you ever secretly ordered food even when there’s a homemade meal available? Join the conversation below.

The companies all have some age restrictions in their terms of service. Many teens order on their parents’ accounts.

Some parents say they don’t want their kids to have such ready access to restaurant food that federal studies show tends to contain more saturated fat, sodium and calories than food cooked at home.

Shavon Turner, 40, who lives in the Los Angeles area, said the meals she prepares for the seven kids in her household sometimes lose out to

Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.


“The younger generation of kids don’t appreciate home-cooked meals as much because they’re so addicted to the salt, sugar and oil that’s in the prepared foods of the world,” Ms. Turner says.

Chipotle’s chief marketing officer

Chris Brandt

said the chain’s customizable menu allows for meals that run from nutritious to indulgent.

“Some people load it up for this giant burrito or bowl that’s as big as your head. But you can eat as healthy as you want at Chipotle,” Mr. Brandt says.

Other adults being pulled into children’s delivery orders are worried about their own waistlines.

Delivery companies make it easy for people to order all kinds of food on their phone.


Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Cynthia Latson, a 40-year-old public-relations officer from Los Angeles, says she’s gained weight since moving in with her aunt and her aunt’s two teenagers. The kids order from restaurants roughly five times a week, spoiling Ms. Latson’s plans to make fish and vegetables.

“It’s the new laziness,” Ms. Latson says.

America’s love for take-out is spurring a boom in food delivery startups. But what’s convenient for customers may not be good for restaurants. Here’s why.

Food-delivery services say they offer a range of restaurants with a variety of healthy choices. A Grubhub spokeswoman says the company delivers many kinds of food including salads, soup and rice bowls.

Many schools across the country have banned food deliveries to individual students. Some students are finding workarounds to get their fix.

Maggie Davis is a fan of food-delivery services.


Davis Family

“It’s stupid because the school lunch is disgusting,” says 15-year-old Maggie Davis.

Students at a high school in Granite Bay, Calif., have tried to circumvent a ban on food delivery by instructing couriers to slip their orders through gaps in the school’s fence. Principal Jennifer Leighton has threatened those enterprising young learners with detention.

“We’re not going to allow strangers on our campus to deliver food to kids,” Ms. Leighton says.

Some people well past their teenage years have also found that their tech-enabled eating habits are out of step with those of their parents.

According to market-research firm NPD Group, food-delivery orders from the young members of Generation Z are growing the fastest, but the older millennial generation still generates the largest share of orders—622 million in the year ended in November.

Zachary Shakked and his father, Avi Shakked.


Shakked family

At home in Old Bridge, N.J., for Thanksgiving this year, Zachary Shakked, 23, chose DoorDash instead of his dad’s traditional Thursday morning eggs. Mr. Shakked, who works as an app developer in New York, placed his order from bed: a Taylor ham, egg and cheese bagel, and a second with cream cheese in case he was still hungry.

His father, Avi Shakked, a 70-year-old engineer, was surprised to hear the doorbell ring while the pair were watching “Saturday Night Live” clips, announcing the arrival of his son’s bagels.

“I’m not used to waking up and ordering food,” the father says. “I just go get it.” He ate what he had in the house: toast, Brie and coffee.

Some parents are in no position to lecture their children about home cooking.

Jiao Bo, an executive for a U.S.-based maker of industrial gas detectors in Shanghai, says he and his wife, who works in a hospital, are so busy that they have become reliant on apps to summon precooked meals to their home. Mr. Jiao says they let their 12-year-old daughter, Jinghan, help decide what to order.

Recently, Jinghan made a surprising request: she wanted more home cooking.

Write to Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com and James R. Hagerty at bob.hagerty@wsj.com

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