Today, Uber Eats launched a pilot program that lets its restaurant parters accept pickup and delivery orders directly through their own websites with no added commission fee for the rest of 2020.
The program seems to be a bid on Uber Eats’ part to keep restaurant partners entrenched in the third-party delivery service’s ecosystem by offering them the option to process orders via their own digital properties. The catch (because there’s always a catch) is that Uber Eats still powers those orders. The Uber Eats site clearly states that with this new program, restaurants will “leverage best-in-class Uber Eats feature and powerful technology to fulfill orders.”
That brings up a whole host of questions around customer data, which we’ll get it shortly.
First, it is worth noting that Uber Eats is waiving commission fees on delivery and pickup orders placed through one of these sites through the end of 2020 (restaurant still pay a 2.5 percent processing fee). The exorbitant commission fees third-party delivery services charge restaurants — as high as 30 percent per transaction in some cases — has been by far the biggest grief restaurants and restaurant advocates have voiced over the last year. The pandemic cranked the volume on that conversation up so high that many cities have introduced mandatory caps on these fees for the time being. The general argument is that restaurants are getting decimated by coronavirus restrictions, and asking an indie restaurant barely surviving to pay 30 percent of each order to a delivery company is a spoonful of salt in an already pretty grievous wound.
In the short term, a program like Uber Eats’ could give restaurants a much-needed boost when it comes to building out an off-premises strategy that won’t financially gut them at the same time.
The cost, however, looks to be data. As noted above, Uber Eats is still powering these transactions, which means it ultimately controls access to the data on customers. In fact, a fine-print note buried at the bottom of the new program’s site states that a “restaurant can access customer data subject to opt-in from customer during checkout.” What’s unclear is if that opt-in will be an easy-to-see feature on the consumer-facing app — and if customers would actually use it. We have reached out to Uber to get clarification on this.
Uber Eats sort of addressed this by also announcing today the release of its mobile app for restaurant managers and customer engagement tools. Per the blog post, both of those things helps restaurant managers track sales, respond to customer feedback, and get other insights about customer behavior.
Like I said before, all of these things could very well help struggling restaurants right now, many of whom never offered off-premises before the pandemic and are now having to learn as they go when it comes to running a delivery and takeout business.
Longer term, however, getting locked into Uber’s ecosystem so thoroughly will limit the amount of control restaurants have over their own data and ultimately their customer relationships.