Uber Launches Full-Time Food Delivery With UberEATS App

It's Uber, but, you get it. Photograph via Uber.

In its latest attempt to morph from a transportation provider to a full-service logistics company, Uber is launching its food-delivery platform, UberEATS, as a standalone app for DC customers beginning Tuesday. That means that in addition to ferrying people around town, some Uber drivers will also be carting hot meals.

The new platform is an expansion of the original UberEATS service, which offered limited menus from a rotating selection of eateries during lunch hours. That product, called “Instant Delivery,” will remain available inside the main Uber app, while the standalone food app positions Uber to make a run at delivery businesses like Postmates and Seamless.

Unlike Seamless, though, in which the fare is often the greasy last resort of late, drunken nights, Uber’s food app takes a more curated approach to its participating eateries, ranging from casual joints like Buredo and DCity Smokehouse to upscale restaurants like Osteria Morini. And in a break from Postmates, which will dispatch couriers to any restaurant that will pack its meals to go even if the menu is unavailable online, restaurants working with Uber will list their full menus inside the app.

The UberEATS app launched last week in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto; Washington is one of the first cities in a second wave that also includes Atlanta, Dallas, New York, and Seattle.

So far, about 100 local restaurants have signed up to start, says Brian Gelb, the general manager of UberEATS for DC. The coverage area includes the entire city from 9 AM and 10 PM.

With all the orders transmitted automatically—instead of the Postmates model, in which a courier goes to a restaurant, places an order manually, and then waits—restaurants on Uber’s platform will receive their orders, then be able to ping the company when it’s time for a driver to collect, Gelb says. Some drivers will be from the larger pool of UberX drivers, while others working the deliveries would not qualify for the regular car service. (Because their vehicles are too old or too small, the company says.)

As for cost, Uber will collect a $4.99 delivery fee—though that is being waived for the first few weeks—and drivers will earn rates similar to what UberX rides pay.

Still, Uber has not exactly reinvented food delivery. In fact, it’s a little less efficient than the pizza-delivery guy who can drop off multiple pies on a single trip. Drivers on the UberEATS platform will only be taking one order at a time, Gelb says, and they can’t pull double duty with Uber’s flagship product.

“There’s no pooling with food and people, so you’ll never be sharing UberPool with a cheeseburger,” Gelb says.

Correction: This article previously stated the UberEATS coverage area is limited to a small portion of DC. The service is available citywide.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.