Third Party Delivery Life or Death for the Restaurant Operator

The conversation surrounding food delivery continues to be a major concern for today’s restaurant operators as they wade through a number of new technologies providing third-party delivery solutions.

GrubHub is up by over 38 percent in sales. The online delivery marketplace has also acquired Tapingo, Eat24, and LevelUp, and recently partnered with Dunkin’. However, not far behind, DoorDash just overtook GrubHub in U.S. monthly food delivery sales. The ever-popular Uber maintains a steady 91 million monthly active users in over 20 countries and provides food delivery for 50 percent of the U.S. population.

Nevertheless, our research here at Foodable Labs shows that there are some beginning signs of fatigue in both the operator and the consumer in terms of sentiment toward third-party delivery. An analysis of over one million conversations about third-party delivery reveals a few key areas that consistently problematize the companies’ claims to convenience.

Top 10 Third-Party By Sentiment Rating

Source: Foodable Labs

The Fees hit both the operator and the consumer. Operators typically pay third-party companies 20 to 30 percent of the base cost of the ordered food. Depending on the delivery service, consumers may pay a yearly fee or pay fees for delivery from certain restaurants. In just this past quarter, there has been a sentiment drop of 3.6 points on the consumer side across the top ten delivery services. On the operator side, the drop is even direr: sentiment fell by 5.8 points.

The Data represents a constant battle between the operator and the delivery service: who owns a guest’s information, order habits, items, and frequency of purchase? The restaurants believe the guests’ data belongs to them because the customer is their guest eating their food, whereas delivery services want to leverage the data to the max with deals, app notifications, and constant marketing.

The Brand is a key area that hits home for every restaurant business. Because the restaurant loses control of the delivery, brand continuity often comes into question. Food safety and new packaging is a constant concern for restaurants to ensure they maintain each customer’s business and overall enjoyment of the restaurant.

The Jimmy John’s sandwich chain, one of the first restaurants to embrace delivery services, has refused since its beginnings to deal with third-party companies due to these issues. “We’ve been researching … what is best for our customers and our brand,” says Jimmy John’s Chief Marketing Officer John Shea. “In our exploration, we came to the conclusion that we do it better.”

The question still remains whether food delivery companies like GrubHub and UberEats can come up with a program to solve these issues. My take is that the industry is incredibly complex: businesses range from independent to franchises to emerging chains to Titans of QSR, and each business has different needs and complaints regarding the current model of third-party food delivery.

Some members of the industry are seeking the bottom line of profit, while others are looking for top-line sales and incremental lift. The brand also comes into play, and profit is always a factor. The guest connection could also change the entire landscape of food delivery over the course of the next few years.

A few brands are taking matters into their own hands. Third party delivery can deeply cut profits, so fast-casual restaurants like Modern Market and Panera Bread are investing in their own ordering and delivery platforms. This move is risky, as it could limit the company’s competitive potential. But the choice ensures that the restaurant can maintain brand continuity and better address customer concerns regarding the food delivery process.

Third party delivery providers have a fiduciary responsibility to grow the business and create stockholder value. And history shows that pushback from the community can be a deterrence to the growth of these companies. The real difference here is that the dynamics of the restaurant industry does not fare well for third-party deliverers. The real future for the third-party delivery companies lies in the development of their own foodservice brands —whether they are cloud and virtual kitchens, or full on commissary systems that can meet massive demand. In my video report from last November, I break down the idea of how third-party restaurant brand development is the real gold rush for likes of Uber and GrubHub.

Uber Drone Delivery Begins Testing This Summer

Your next takeout order could be delivered by drone in just a few months. Uber is performing drone delivery test trials in San Diego this summer, pending approval from the FAA.

The drone will not deliver food to customers’ doors during these preliminary trials. Instead, the drone will arrive at a designated safe landing zone where an Uber courier will retrieve your order and complete the delivery. Uber Elevate, the team handling drone delivery, intends to use this method to reduce the chance of noise pollution, collisions, devices and packages falling midair, and other safety concerns. Delivery boxes are crafted with carefully selected packaging materials that keep food warm throughout the trip.

Uber appears confident that the technology will become the new norm. According to data from previous company tests with McDonald’s, drones are three times as fast as other modes of transportation. Drones can travel 1.5 miles in seven minutes. With a driver or cyclist, such a trip takes about 21 minutes on average.

According to Eric Allison, Uber’s head of aerial projects, the company has invested in this technology in large part because of the growing popularity of Uber Eats. Allison believes drone delivery will give Uber Eats the edge over its competition, with “selection, quality, and efficiency” drastically improving thanks to the advent of drones. Uber analysts predict that within the next ten years, fast food restaurants will have completely remodeled their kitchens to better suit the needs of drone delivery.

Not far behind, Google has already been performing drone deliveries in Finland and Australia through its offshoot Project Wing. FedEx is developing a food delivery robot, and intends to partner with Pizza Hut, Walmart, and Walgreens in the endeavor.

Ever looking forward, Uber Elevate is also in the process of designing flying taxi technology. Test flights are tentatively planned for 2020 with an anticipated commercial launch in 2023.

Research by:

Paul Barron

Paul Barron

Editor-in-Chief/Executive Producer


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How Uber Eats Continues to Grow and Lead in the Food Delivery Space

This year's Winter Fancy Food Show was full of innovative specialty products and incubators helping reimagine the future of food. Foodable had the pleasure of joining more than 15 innovators to the Specialty Food Association (SFA) Live Stage where trending industry topics were discussed. The following video features Foodable’s Paul Barron, interviewing Bowie Cheung, Director of Operations for Uber Eats.

Cheung explains how Uber Eats has gone as a lunchtime delivery experiment, partnering with one to two restaurants a day with a curated selection of meals. Now boasting a 24/7 coverage to 70 percent of the U.S. population, as well as, 70 percent of the Canadian population, with over 100,000 restaurants.

“Food delivery is a really complex process, there’s a lot of steps involved,” said Cheung. “In a lot of ways, every single transaction can go wrong, and so you need to be thinking about all audiences and how it comes together, in order to deliver a winning platform.”  

For a restaurant to perform well on a food delivery platform, Cheung advises operators to offer unique products, like the ones featured at the Winter Fancy Food Show. Uber Eats features images of restaurants’ specialty menu items as a way to highlight these options to consumers.

Discover how this rideshare giant continues to lead the food delivery industry by watching the video above.

Video Produced by:

Vanessa Rodriguez

Vanessa Rodriguez

Writer & Producer


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Have Amazon Go and UberEats Become a Threat to Restaurant Operators?

Operators have always had to compete in the market with other concepts, but in today's market, there are a new set of power players ready to steal your customers.

Enter Amazon.

Amazon, like the fast casual segment, is catering to the on-the-go consumer with its cashier-less Amazon Go stores, many of which offer grab-and-go food options. These stores have become the most popular during the workweek, especially at lunchtime.

We recently analyzed the aggressive move Amazon is making in the foodservice industry. Listen to this episode of The Barron Report for more insights on if fast casual restaurants can survive this threat.

But there is one advantage that restaurants, namely fast casual restaurants, have over the Amazon Go stores– many have embraced the plant-based movement. According to Foodable Labs data, today's foodies can't get enough of these plant-based menu items.

Don’t miss our video breaking down this data about the plant-based movement below.

Amazon isn't the only threat operators need to be worried about. There is another shark circling to take a bite out of your business.

Third-party delivery services emerged as a solution that many operators desperately needed.

Since offering delivery has quickly become a guests' expectation, an operator has two options. One is to invest in significant funding to build a delivery program. However, this is easier said than done. It entails creating a system, investing in a platform to process these orders, hiring more staff to handle take-out and delivery orders, and then hiring reliable drivers to deliver these orders.

Or an operator can simply partner with a third-party delivery service, which eliminates most of the headaches. When you consider the operational and logistical challenges of offering delivery, its no wonder that operators across the country have decided to go the route of partnering with a third-party delivery service.

But now this has created a new problem.

One of the most popular delivery services out there is now UberEats. This company has quickly conquered the market. UberEats is currently offering food delivery for 50 percent of the U.S. population and has the lofty goal of serving 70 percent of the U.S. population by the end of this year.

As UberEats becomes more popular, the more the fees increase for the participating restaurants. Could this be correlated to the increase in restaurant closings?

Listen to the podcast above as The Barron Report host Paul Barron explains the data showing that third-party delivery growth may be tied to restaurant failures.

Is In-Car Commerce the Next Big Foodservice Trend?

On this episode of On Foodable Weekly: Industry Pulse, we're taking a look at in-car commerce startup, Cargo. Cargo provides a solution to the question, what if I don’t want to get out of the car?

Convenience for consumers who utilize ridesharing, Cargo provides snacks, beverages and miscellaneous items like electronics and beauty products for sale. The center console box features an assortment of items provided by big partners like Coca-Cola, SnackNation, Red Bull, Kellogg's and more.

Recently partnering with the rideshare giant itself, Uber and Cargo are disrupting the retail industry.

The global partnership will be available to riders in San Francisco and Los Angeles first. Uber drivers who choose to provide Cargo’s service to their riders can go to their local Uber service hub and pick up the Cargo box.

What’s in it for drivers? Cargo allows not only for a way to upgrade rideshare service and earn shining reviews and ratings but additional income. Uber and Cargo estimates that drivers can earn about $100 extra per month through Cargo boxes.

For every product a driver sells, including free samples, Cargo will pay the driver one dollar and 25 percent of the product’s retail price.

Learn more about Cargo in the video above and at “Inc.com