More and more it’s looking like food-related programs are what will help rideshare companies generate more loyalty from both drivers and customers. At least, that’s what Uber and Lyft would have us believe with their respective activities of late, which have been heavily focused on merging rideshares and restaurants into a single experience. And news from Uber today only emphasizes that fact more.
Uber announced this morning a nationwide expansion of its rewards program for food delivery couriers, Uber Eats Pro. The program, which is currently in beta, lets those delivering food via Uber Eats earn points and unlock rewards that include cash back on gas, roadside assistance, some car maintenance costs, and even college tuition. As of now, Pro is available in more than 200 cities to Uber Eats workers, according to an email sent to The Spoon.
Upon signing up with the Uber Eats Pro program, drivers and cyclists automatically become a partner. With each delivery a person makes, they earn points that help them unlock rewards from Uber. Those who maintain a 95 percent or above satisfaction rating from restaurants and customers can achieve different status levels to unlock bigger rewards over time, like roadside assistance and 100 percent tuition coverage at Arizona State University Online. Uber has also partnered with Subway to provide daily refreshments, from drinks to sandwiches, which also increase with a Pro user’s status.
More than anything else, Pro’s expansion seems to be aimed at enticing gig workers to stay loyal to the Uber ecosystem, much as any company uses so-called perks to woo employees. With Pro, the more orders a courier delivers, the closer they get to the more substantial rewards like college tuition. Taking time to make a delivery for a rival service, like Lyft, would only slow down that goal.
Not that Lyft is standing still. That service may not have its own food delivery wing, but it is starting to offer its own set of initiatives for food service workers, too. Last week, Washington, DC-based fast-casual chain &pizza unveiled its Lyft for Late Nights program, which offers &pizza employees discounted rides late at night. On Fridays and Saturdays between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., &pizza employees can take a Lyft for a flat fee of $4.50.
Though the program is still in test phase and only available at seven locations currently, it’s another example of rideshare companies and food-oriented companies coming together to offer workers more perks that keep them happy on the job and locked into the rideshare ecosystem.
This tactic of using perks to increase loyalty isn’t just for workers, either. Both Uber and Lyft have tested initiatives in the past that offer perks to diners that ultimately would keep them tied to that particular rideshare service. In 2017, Lyft attempted a partnership with Taco Bell for the ill-fated Taco Mode program, where users could hit the restaurant chain’s drive-thru en route to another destination.
More palatable have been Uber’s efforts of late. In April, the company announced Uber Vouchers, a program designed to get more foot traffic into restaurants by essentially helping rideshare users to pay for their trip to the restaurant. In September, Uber said it would merge Uber Eats and its main app.
Integrating food — a vital part of life — more deeply into these services would seem like a surefire way to attract more customers. As the outdated saying goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
But all these efforts also come at a time when rideshare companies still struggle with profitability. On its most recent earnings call, Uber posted $5.2 billion in losses. Lyft, too, is still hemorrhaging money. Meanwhile, the fight over AB 5 in California, which would reclassify gig workers as employees and upset the entire business model, is hotter than a five-alarm fire. Whether adding more perks for customers and employees can douse flames that high remains doubtful.