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Instacart’s new features make it easier to get groceries delivered in a crisis

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With new Fast & Flexible and Order Ahead delivery options

Instacart Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Instacart is introducing a pair of new delivery options in an attempt to deal with the increased demand the grocery shopping service is seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fast & Flexible and Order Ahead are both designed to increase the number of available delivery windows, depending on whether customers are willing to be flexible with delivery times or if they want to plan further ahead.

Fast & Flexible is designed for people who need their shopping as soon as possible. Selecting the option matches orders with the first available Instacart shopper, rather than pegging it to a specific delivery window like normal. You’ll be given an estimated delivery range (such as Tuesday to Thursday), and then you’ll be notified once your order has been picked up by a shopper. It makes a lot of sense if, like many of us, you’re not planning on leaving the house much over the coming weeks. Fast & Flexible is currently available for all customers across North America.

Ordering a Fast & Flexible delivery means it’ll get picked up by the first available shopper, but you won’t get to pick an exact delivery time.
Image: Instacart

During its testing, Instacart says that the Fast & Flexible delivery option resulted in 50 percent more available delivery windows, and delivery speeds also increased. Considering Instacart’s order volumes increased by 300 percent last week compared to the same period the previous year, this extra capacity is sorely needed.

Order Ahead means that you’re able to place your orders up to two weeks in advance, up from the seven-day limit that’s currently in place. It’s designed to help people plan better if they know they’re not going to be able to shop in person for a significant chunk of time. Instacart says Order Ahead is available now in select “high demand” locations, and it will be rolling out to the rest of North America in the coming weeks.

Although Instacart’s orders have increased as a result of the pandemic, it’s also faced criticism from its shoppers over how it’s handled the health risks they’re facing while out on the job. Workers walked out last Monday over their concerns, demanding better sick leave, protective equipment, and a $5-per-order hazard payment. Instacart has since promised to provide face masks and hand sanitizer to its shoppers but has stopped short of providing hazard pay or giving more assurances over sick pay.