To say that the food delivery market is heating up would be an understatement. It’s already red-hot, and competitors are using every tool in their toolbox — self-driving robots, drones, cloud kitchens, and beyond — to stake their claim in the growing market.

One such company is DoorDash. The food delivery startup has been on fire lately: they recently raised another $250 million, have been experimenting with “moonshot” initiatives (such as drones and robots), and even expanded into grocery delivery.

Next week, DoorDash’s COO Christopher Payne will take the Smart Kitchen Summit stage to speak about how delivery is reshaping the meal journey — and how he’s leveraging tech to help DoorDash stay competitive. Until then, we’re delivering you this piping-hot Q&A, in which Payne discusses the convenience economy, the last-mile logistics problem, and DoorDash’s plans for the future.

Read the full Q&A below.

The Spoon: Food delivery is drastically changing the way that people discover, source, and consume food. How do you see DoorDash, and other food delivery players, disrupting the meal-planning journey?

DoorDash: The convenience economy has already transformed how we consume food, which will in turn affect the food supply chain, merchants’ brick-and-mortar strategy, and restaurants’ operational demands. According to UBS, by 2030 online delivery could make up to 10 percent of the total food market, commanding $365 billion in market share.

At DoorDash, we empower our merchant partners to expand their reach, revenue streams and off-premise dining offerings as consumers continue to shift to the convenience of digital ordering. For customers, we’re focused on offering the best selection and introducing new services to connect them with their favorite restaurants. For example, earlier this year, we debuted DashPass subscription service — offering unlimited access to hundreds of restaurants with free delivery — and Pickup, which allows customers to choose a convenient delivery option at no cost. Both of these services were designed to generate even greater value for our merchant partners, while driving stronger customer loyalty with lower prices.

Through offerings like these, plus expansion into areas such as grocery delivery (which DooDash launched with Walmart this spring) we’re introducing new levels of convenience and are transforming how customers dine and shop for their food.

How does DoorDash distinguish themselves from other services in the extremely competitive and crowded food delivery market?

We offer the best selection of restaurants at the highest quality of service.

In five years, we’ve partnered with 90 percent of the top 100 restaurants that offer delivery including brands like The Cheesecake Factory, Wendy’s, and Chipotle. Across our 1200+ cities in the US and Canada, customers can order from more than 100,000 merchants.

DoorDash has always led with a merchant-first approach, offering a suite of products to our restaurant partners, ensuring the highest quality delivery, every single time. With our products and integrations for merchants, we ensure faster and more accurate deliveries, and our in-house support system offers best-in-class service that solves customer problems in real-time.

We also built DoorDash Drive, a platform that helps merchants run their own private label delivery service through DoorDash, tapping our operational expertise and fleet of more than 200,000 Dashers across the US and Canada. By leveraging DoorDash insights and experience, these efforts have enabled businesses to grow their off-premise platforms and increase delivery sales by up to 300 percent.

Tech plays a huge role in food delivery, and some companies are experimenting with technology like automation in dark kitchens and delivery drones. How do you think that tech will shape the future of food delivery, specifically for DoorDash?

The last mile of delivery is the most expensive and time-consuming part of fulfillment for merchants and their logistics partners. The technology behind food delivery is the reason it has come so far today and it will only continue to grow as we continue to see a shift from in-store to digital ordering — a shift that’s expected to reach $200 billion.

At DoorDash, we look at on-demand delivery as operating at the intersection of a math problem and a human problem. The company was founded to solve the logistics problems of a three-sided marketplace — merchants, customers and Dashers — through technology.

In addition to using AI and machine learning (ML) technologies to improve last-mile delivery, we are always seeking to continue experimenting with innovative tech to make the food delivery supply chain a better experience our marketplace. For example, we’ve announced pilot programs with Starship Technologies and Marble to deliver food using robots. Robots bring a new option to the table for efficient delivery; tackling smaller, shorter distance orders that Dashers often avoid, but also freeing up Dashers to fulfill the bigger and more complex deliveries.

For DoorDash, the innovations we roll out will be focused on empowering merchants and providing an even better experience for both our Dashers and customers. It’s too soon to say if that will come from drones or self-driving vehicles, but building the entire ecosystem of products and working closely with city regulators to deploy a reliable and safe system will take some time.

Do you see DoorDash diversifying beyond food to become more of a general e-commerce company?

DoorDash was founded with the goal of being the last-mile logistics layer that empowers businesses to thrive in the digital and convenience economy. This spring, through the DoorDash Drive platform, we expanded beyond restaurant delivery with the launch of our first national grocery partnership with Walmart. Since announcing our partnership in Atlanta, we’ve scaled to more than 300 stores across 20 states in the United States, and will continue to roll out this proven model to power deliveries in new areas in retail and beyond.

As merchants look to meet consumer demand for convenience, DoorDash will support these businesses as they look to broaden their on-demand delivery offerings and update commerce strategies. We’re excited about enabling local businesses to compete.

How do you see the food delivery space evolving over the next 5 to 10 years?

If you think forward, the digital and convenience economy is only going to keep accelerating. We’re just at the beginning. DoorDash is at the forefront of becoming the technology and logistics partner to each of these businesses in every city to make this happen.

The democratization of convenience is more important than ever — people living away from urban hubs want the same advantages as people in major cities. This demand inevitably affects the supply chain, and food delivery companies are logistics agents that will see more and more shifts.

Thanks, Chris! If you want to see him speak more about the competitive world of food delivery, snag your tickets to the Smart Kitchen Summit on October 8-9th in Seattle.

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