Today White Castle announced a new delivery partnership with Uber Eats. The majority of the White Castle menu is now available via the Uber Eats app in over 330 of the fast-food chains’ locations.
Of course, if you’re of a certain generation, the name White Castle almost always brings to mind a certain cult classic film, and the launch of the Uber Eats program coincides with the 15-year anniversary of “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.” To celebrate, White Castle is giving away up to 1 million of its Original sliders (sorry, Impossible fans) to customers who order via the Uber Eats app. If you’re so inclined, you can also order a Harold & Kumar meal via the app that offers “special 2004 pricing” — which basically means it’s a cheaper deal.
Of course, when the movie came out in 2004 it was a very different QSR landscape from the one we see today. Nowadays, no amount of gimmicky moves like the above will guarantee you customers if you don’t also have a robust delivery strategy in place. White Castle already delivers via Grubhub and DoorDash, which makes the deal with Uber Eats neither surprising nor earth-shattering.
However, it does highlight just how heated competition between third-party delivery services is bound to get in the QSR arena. In fast food or otherwise, consumers don’t demonstrate a particular loyalty to any one of these third-party delivery services. At the same time, the services themselves are making moves to try and capture more of that elusive customer loyalty, particularly via subscription services that offer — depending on what you order — better prices and some discounts. All of which suggests QSRs like White Castle, who work with multiple delivery partners, could become a mini-battleground of sorts as the novelty of digital ordering and delivery wears off and consumers align with whatever service will get the food to their door cheapest and fastest.
Uber, for its part, has been hard at work initiatives that actually go beyond faster cheaper food when it comes to building customer loyalty: the company offers a $25/month subscription to its overall service, which is an Amazon Prime-like membership that offers discounted rides and free bike usage in addition to deals on Uber Eats. It’s also offering Eats functionality from the main Uber app, subsidizing customers’ rides to restaurants, and drone-dropping haute burgers, all of which are in part geared towards keeping customers in the Uber ecosystem. (Ok, maybe not that last one but drones are still cool.)
While publicity gimmicks like Harold & Kumar-themed meals are amusing and even commonplace when restaurants announce delivery deals, realistically, customer loyalty is going to come from how well Uber or any other service can execute on the above while still keeping menu prices competitive.