Niklas Östberg is the founder and CEO of Delivery Hero. D as company operates in more than 40 countries online platforms for food orders. Customers order online from the company's website at a restaurant and either their own drivers deliver the food or the restaurant itself. The platform receives a commission for the service. Delivery Hero is headquartered in Berlin, but no longer operates delivery services in Germany. The company benefited greatly during the crisis and could soon move up to the leading German index Dax.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Östberg, have you ever put yourself on one of the wheels of your company and driven out food to customers?

Niklas Östberg: Oh yes, of course, very often. I like it and it's refreshing. You are on a mission. I did this six or seven times, not all day, but a few hours. Similar to how our drivers do it. Many only work for a few hours.

ZEIT ONLINE: The job for your drivers may not be all that refreshing in times of the pandemic. You need to be out and about with customers while most people stay at home. Don't you have a guilty conscience?

Östberg: We inform the drivers about our hygiene standards and explain to them when they should wear masks. We tell them how to take deliveries contactlessly from restaurants and deliver them to customers. We have also launched a fund of over three million euros in the event that drivers who are not permanently employed fall ill and need support.

ZEIT ONLINE: If your drivers were permanently employed, they would be entitled to continued sick pay. So far, they are self-employed and are paid for each order. What's so difficult about keeping your people busy? And don't say now, they don't want that. Otherwise they would not form unions to do just that.

Östberg: Of course you can say that you don't believe me that our drivers don't want to be permanently employed. But we have conducted a number of surveys by external providers among them and the results are clear. The vast majority of drivers prefer not to be permanent employees. You appreciate the great flexibility. If they have a little time to work, they log on to the system spontaneously and get orders. If you need a break, take one. If you don't feel like working anymore, just log out and go home.

ZEIT ONLINE: But it's also about security and the amount of the payment.

Östberg: More safety and higher pay are of course also important points for the drivers. But if we were to get permanent jobs, we would have to keep more staff than we could possibly get orders. That would mean that we could pay our drivers less or it would become more expensive for customers. But then people would order less, so there would be less work and therefore less money for the drivers.

ZEIT ONLINE: So your business model is based on the gig economy, in which you are only paid for the service provided. Otherwise it would not work.

Östberg: That sounds very brutal now. But in the end, it is just that our business model works best for everyone involved when there is maximum flexibility. And it is also attractive for drivers because they are paid better. We have to find a balance that is good for all sides, for the restaurants, the drivers and for us. Of course there is always something to improve.