Batching and Matching for Food Delivery in Dynamic Road Networks

In the food delivery industry, it is important to minimize the delivery time in order to achieve maximal customer satisfaction. This problem consists of several subproblems: we need to find the best vehicle assignment policy, create the rules for batching multiple orders in the same vehicle, take into account dynamic vehicle positions, and to find the algorithm which can be computed quickly enough.

Image credit: Unsplash/Kimi Lee

A recent paper on shows that the minimization problem is NP-hard and inapproximable. An algorithm called FOODMATCH is suggested. It uses the solution to the known problem of minimum weight perfect matching on a bipartite graph. FOODMATCH algorithm allows to achieve 30% smaller delivery time compared with baseline strategies and leads to a higher number of orders delivered per kilometre. The first real, largescale food-delivery data are released for further academic research together with the study.

Given a stream of food orders and available delivery vehicles, how should orders be assigned to vehicles so that the delivery time is minimized? Several decisions have to be made: (1) assignment of orders to vehicles, (2) grouping orders into batches to cope with limited vehicle availability, and (3) adapting to dynamic positions of delivery vehicles. We show that the minimization problem is not only NP-hard but inapproximable in polynomial time. To mitigate this computational bottleneck, we develop an algorithm called FoodMatch, which maps the vehicle assignment problem to that of minimum weight perfect matching on a bipartite graph. To further reduce the quadratic construction cost of the bipartite graph, we deploy best-first search to only compute a subgraph that is highly likely to contain the minimum matching. The solution quality is further enhanced by reducing batching to a graph clustering problem and anticipating dynamic positions of vehicles through angular distance. Extensive experiments on food-delivery data from large metropolitan cities establish that FoodMatch is substantially better than baseline strategies on a number of metrics, while being efficient enough to handle real-world workloads.


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