Moving beyond transportation, Uber will attempt to satisfy locals' appetite for on-demand takeout with the launch of UberEats in San Diego, catering to customers west of Interstate 805, from La Jolla to downtown.
Starting today, the company will tap its network of more than 12,000 area drivers to pick up and drop off food orders between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. The new food-delivery service, which will go head-to-head with similar offerings from Amazon and Postmates, is accessible through the UberEats web and mobile application, separate from the regular Uber ride-hailing app. Selection includes full menus from more than 100 local restaurants, including Carnitas' Snack Shack, Kebab Shop and Puesto.
San Diego marks the 11th U.S. city were UberEats is being offered and signals the company's continued designs to apply its on-demand logistics engine to industries other than transportation.
"Just as easy as it is to order a car, we hope to make it that easy to order your favorite food," said Ben Story, general manager for Eats in San Diego.
While not as speedy as rider pickups, UberEats deliveries take, on average, around 30 minutes, he said. Customers can also track their takeout just as they would their rides, watching orders travel en route from the restaurant to their location. Drop-offs will take place curbside, and not at doorsteps, so as to minimize any parking challenges for drivers and speed up delivery times.
The version of UberEats arriving in San Diego is a departure from the company's original approach to give-it-to-me-now meals, which kicked off in Los Angeles in the summer of 2014. That version, referred to as "instant" delivery and still available in some locales, offers people a limited selection of prepared menu items during lunch and dinner hours, with delivery promised in 10 minutes or less.
In March of this year, the company switched course with the standalone app for made-to-order meals and full restaurant menus.
The new direction pits Uber directly against e-commerce giant Amazon, which also delivers local restaurant fare through its Prime Now service, an instant-delivery perk available to Prime members. UberEats also competes with GrubHub, Seamless, Postmates and DoorDash, all of which provide San Diegans with food on-demand for varying service fees. And startup Postmates, which delivers products and packages in addition to food, recently added a $10-per-month subscription option for its most frequent buyers.
"We have access to the healthiest supply of driver partners ... which allows us to deliver food, on average, faster and more efficiently than anyone else," Story said. "And we expect to pass that on to people at the lowest price."
In San Diego, where Uber can target its existing pool of 650,000 riders, Eats hopes to one-up some of its competitors with free delivery for an undisclosed introductory period. Delivery fees will be $5 per order thereafter. The company could also win over a few fans, because, just like with the rider app, Eats does not include a tipping function, while most of its rival food delivery apps encourage tipping.
Eats drivers, who are independent contractors, are paid based on time and distance traveled. Drivers can work solely for Eats or opt to switch between food orders and passengers, though they'll only be able to handle one request at a time. Meanwhile, participating restaurants, which are provided with an iPad app for accepting orders, are not charged upfront fees, but they do pay a percentage - around 30 percent - of each bill. The company claims its cut covers a "full-service delivery" product, meaning restaurants need only worry about accepting orders.
"The magic is that right before the food is done, (the Eats system) automatically requests a car, the car arrives and has instructions for how to pick up the food," Story said.
The idea, then, is that Eats should be a seamless experience for customer, restaurant and driver, with Uber's technology doing most of the dirty work behind the scenes. Going forward, the company will monitor the made-to-order Eats program here and consider the viability of adding the instant option to the San Diego market.