The secret to successful food delivery is managing quick pickup and delivery without leaving food cold or misplacing half your order en route.

Just Eat Takeaway.com One bite can handle dinner at your local pizzeria or rotisserie. But in its corporate efforts, the recipe went horribly wrong.

First, a quick turnaround is not the goal of a strategic deal. After pressure from investors, JET said it was considering a sale of Grubhub, the $7.3 billion U.S. acquisition it closed less than a year ago and announced in June 2020 as a lockdown of populations sparked online food delivery prosperity.

See what happened on the way. Investors were lukewarm on JET. When the deal was announced, the company’s Dutch-listed shares were close to 100 euros. They were trading at around 27 euros on Wednesday, down 70 percent over the past year.

Here’s another cautionary tale about empire building. CEO Jitse Groen, who founded Takeaway.com in the Netherlands in 2000, just signed a deal to combine his company with UK-listed Just Eat in early 2020.

Still, he resisted Uber’s interest in acquiring Grubhub. This brings together three traditional food delivery platforms, all of which start with a marketplace model offering software that connects customers with restaurants that handle food delivery themselves.

The deal always looks bad. JET paid a 40% premium because no geographic overlap meant no antitrust issues (unlike Uber), but no cost savings or the benefits of consolidating a competitive market.

Like its European traditional market business, Grubhub used to be profitable. But its market share and profit margins have been shrinking due to competition from companies with their own delivery networks, such as DoorDash and UberEats.

Even in 2020, Groen has dismissed these competitors (including UK-based Deliveroo) for offering “empty calorie gains” or having an “unreasonable business model”. But in fact, the company is already building its own logistics network to compete. The idea of ​​redeploying European profits to reverse Grubhub’s slump has evaporated as it invests heavily to capture the pandemic’s growth.

JET’s group ebitda fell to a loss of 350 million euros in 2021 from 363 million euros in 2020, even as total deal value rose by a third. Grubhub’s U.S. share continues to shrink.

Activist investor Cat Rock Capital criticized management’s communications with investors and called for a sale, arguing that JET is vulnerable in a market that relies on deep pockets to deter or crack down on new entrants. The company pledged Wednesday to refocus on profitability. But it also downgraded its GTV growth outlook for 2022 from the mid-teens to mid-single digits, just seven weeks after reiterating the higher numbers for the full year.

Finding any bettor willing to gobble up Grubhub will be considered a win. JET’s market value of about 6 billion euros is now below the purchase price, and it also owns a 33 percent stake in Brazilian company iFood, which analysts value at between 1.5 billion and 4 billion euros, for sale.

But the fact that JET management has ruled out a sale of Grubhub until recently has cast doubt on how motivated they are to get the deal done. These are scary times for sales. Shares of all food delivery companies fell as investors considered adjusting to a non-lockdown world. It remains difficult to predict where consumer behavior will stabilize, especially given the squeeze on incomes from inflation. Fee caps implemented during the pandemic could become permanent in New York, Grubhub’s most important market, a measure that costs 200 million euros of ebitda a year.

JET’s bosses have been known to have bizarre disputes with industry rivals over the relative attractiveness of their businesses. But over the past few years, it’s him who has served up real dog dinners.

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