Uber Goes Old School With New Delivery Services

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

With a pandemic suppressing the world’s need for transportation, Uber has kept itself busy by offering free rides to healthcare workers and expanding its food-delivery service, Uber Eats. Initially, that meant activating the program in more countries. The ride-hailing company has since added ways for businesses to manage meal plans for employees working from home while attempting to supply drivers with masks and disinfectant sprays.

This week, the company said it will expand the ways in which customers interface with these services. But this new method has been popular for well over a century. In a bid to encourage older Americans to use its food-delivery services, Uber has implemented a telephone line designed to help Luddites trapped in their homes. Customers can now dial a toll-free number and discuss menu options with an Uber representative who will help then finalize and pay for their order.

We mistakenly assumed the company already had something like this in play; however, Reuters reports that this is the first instance of Uber allowing patrons to access delivery services outside of its app. It did launch something similar for its core business earlier this year after leaning older customers were having issue with the standard channels, though that program is currently only active in Arizona and Florida. Meanwhile, the food hotline will be tested for residents in New York City and Miami.

From Reuters:

An Uber spokesman said the company at the time conducted focus group studies showing that older adults struggled to use technology despite having a need for Uber and transportation — lessons it now seeks to extend to its food delivery business.

While taxi companies and restaurants for years have allowed customers to book a cab or order a food delivery over the phone, app-based services relying on cheaper independent contract workers have been able to expand thanks to lower costs and the convenience of online booking.

But food delivery companies like Uber Eats, GrubHub Inc., DoorDash Inc. and Postmates Inc. have faced criticism over the high fees they take from independent restaurants, often eating up already-thin profit margins.

Despite Uber Eats being a continuous money loser for the firm, the company said it’s seen a significant increase in customers amid the coronavirus pandemic. It also said the number of delivery drivers signing up for the service doubled in mid-March, stopping short of giving up the actual metrics. Meanwhile, we know from an investors call on March 19th that the core business has taken quite the hit.

CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said ridership in Seattle was down by 60 to 70 percent, adding that the number was probably the same for most major metropolitan areas. At the same time, he offered assurances that the business had sufficient financial reserves to endure a period of economic inactivity. Khosrowshahi said the company has $10 billion in unrestricted cash at the ready, in addition to $1.5 billion it had set aside for mergers and acquisitions for 2020. Pretty impressive for a company that has never once posted a profitable quarter.

[Image: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 5 comments
  • Oberkanone Oberkanone on Apr 15, 2020

    No more ride-hailing posts. No more delivery service posts. What is your fascination with uber? @#$%&!

  • Stuki Stuki on Apr 15, 2020

    It's always good to see a company showing some flexibility. They do at some point have to start making money, though....

  • SCE to AUX What a farce.Besides, "patriotism" has been redefined a hundred different ways in the last 20+ years. Disagree with one of them, and you're a traitor.And for starters, Jeep is a Stellantis brand with its HQ in the Netherlands. If this persistent myth about patriotism is ever cracked, the brand is doomed.
  • MaintenanceCosts I'm definitely seeing more dealer-level discounts than I did a year ago, but not a lot of lower MSRPs.
  • MaintenanceCosts Some people are fooled by sticking little flag badges on stuff, I guess.
  • Bkojote I'm proud to drive my Jeep, an American car that was made in Mexico and engineered in Italy for Brazil by a French-Italian company discarded by the Germans and now headquartered in the Netherlands.Sure my Renegade is a pile, but it's the same brand that made the XJ Cherokee! And that's as American as they come, as it was financed and engineered by the French whose colors are also red white and blue, and who could forget the Wrangler, which is proudly assembled in Ohio by a Korean firm they subcontracted to.
  • Paul Alexander Pretty cool that WalMart, the driving force behind consumer products all being Made-In-China and the destruction of Main Street USA, is considered patriotic.