Although the ride-hailing arm of Uber is struggling, Uber may have found a niche where its core competencies really shine: food delivery.
Uber Eats represents the company’s second try at food delivery – but this time, UberEverything, its parent division, is armed with a whole new playbook. Despite a late re-entry into the over $100 billion food delivery industry, the lessons Uber has learned by failing once, as well as data it has gathered while couriering human cargo, may give this venture some real teeth.
What UberFresh Did Wrong that UberEats is Doing Right
Uber’s first experiment with food delivery was a pilot launched in Los Angeles in 2014, called UberFresh.
The idea was to deliver prepackaged lunches and dinners from restaurants in safe storage containers in drivers’ cars. Unfortunately, food quality was a problem, with food often arriving cold. Customers also complained about a lack of selection that more flexible restaurant relationships would have allowed.
The project was eventually scrapped and in December 2015, UberEverything introduced the UberEats app in Toronto. Instead of prepackaged meals, UberEats would offer freshly cooked meals from restaurants that could be ordered with a smartphone. It’s now available in 120 cities with over two million available drivers.
For UberEats drivers, cars aren’t required to meet the same inspection standards as for passenger-based Ubers, which can be a huge benefit if a driver is just getting started. Drivers don’t even need a car in many metro areas, since UberEats can be delivered as easily by bike!
Uber’s Data Investment May Pay Off Big Time
Besides paying attention to the little things that really held back the UberFresh program the first go-round, UberEats has another huge leg up.
It has access to all the data and data scientists that the main Uber system employs. All those years spent tracking Uber drivers in metro areas wasn’t just for fun, Uber was also working out the most efficient way to get through various cities and can now time driver arrival to the minute.
This makes it possible to schedule a driver to arrive just as a food order is completed, giving them a better window in which to get high quality food where it’s wanted while it’s still super fresh.
Better tech and more of the right kinds of employees are making Uber’s second go at food delivery a real possibility as a profit vehicle. It’s certainly less likely to be the subject of a major media kerfuffle, which at this point, is a positive for the company.