A global pandemic in which unnecessary travel is discouraged seems like the worst time to own a travel company. Uber is, however, trying to make some cash by leveraging its network of drivers and vehicles by turning them from people movers into couriers. Today, the company announced that it would begin offering grocery delivery -- to selected cities -- from within its main apps. The hope is that, as people stay indoors but still need to get food, they’ll lean on Uber’s services to keep their refrigerators stocked.
The service is being enabled by Cornershop, a company that Uber bought late last year which offers online grocery shopping. It currently has operations in major cities in Latin America and Canada and, unsurprisingly, it’s here that Uber’s grocery operation will begin. The company says that the first US cities to get the feature will be Miami, Florida, and Dallas, Texas, at some point later this month.
You’ll be able to use either the Uber or Uber Eats apps to find a participating grocery store to place an order for delivery. At that point, a Cornershop “team member” will fulfill your order and deliver it to your home, with the usual Uber options for non-contact able if you so desire. Users who already pony up for Eats Pass or Uber Pass will also benefit from free delivery on orders over $30.
Uber says that it has seen grocery delivery orders increase by close to 200 percent since lockdowns began in March. That’s understandable, and also makes sense why the company would look to pivot away from transport and again into logistics. After all, its on-demand delivery service, Uber Rush, was trialled between 2015 and killed off in 2018, citing a lack of interest. Uber is promising to roll out the service to more US cities in the coming months as it works to build out its logistics network, which should be easy given its established relationships. Not to mention its (pending) $2.65 billion purchase of Postmates which should bulk out its network in California and the south west.
Of course, there is likely to be competition from bigger, more established companies in this space, like Walmart and Amazon. Both companies not only own supermarkets but the logistics networks to cover much of the country already. It’ll be interesting, too, to see if Uber’s patchwork of contractors and stores will be able to out-muscle these national players with all of their scale and weight behind them. Right now, however, getting into the food business seems like a smart idea and, hey, could wind up being just as profitable as its first mission to unspool the taxi industry.