Uber may have Uber Eats to drive food directly to customer’s doors, but the ride-sharing service has made it clear in the last few months it’s still trying to integrate food experiences directly into its main app. Besides offering some Uber Eats functionality through the ride-share app, the company also recently released Uber Vouchers. The latter promises to help move foot traffic into restaurants and other retail venues by offering potential customers a ride-share credit for that destination. In other words, Uber and/or the restaurant will pay for your ride to dinner.
Uber Vouchers launched in April, but thanks to a podcast interview that dropped today on Nation’s Restaurant News, we now have a better idea of how it’s working in the food world and what it could mean for restaurant traffic in the future.
NRN spoke with Sherif Mityas, the chief experience officer for TGI Friday’s (TGIF), to get the lowdown on how the feature works. Restaurants sign up with Uber Vouchers, then decide which times of day the want the vouchers to be valid and how much of the ride they’re willing to cover to get the customer on premises.
Since Uber is the one to issue the vouchers, they work for both TGIF loyalty members as well as Uber customers just looking for a place to eat that night. Uber will send the user a code tied specifically to their account. Selecting “TGI Friday’s” as the destination will trigger that code to give the user a discount. Vouchers can either cover a customer’s trip to the restaurant or cover their ride home (see below).
The goal is to drive foot traffic to the restaurant, something that’s getting increasingly more difficult at a time when consumers are upping the amount they spend on food delivery. The vouchers in turn create incentive for customers to go to restaurant during key times, like happy hour.
As far as who pays for the ride on the back end, Mityas says it varies. At the moment, TGIF will pay all or at least part of a customer’s ride to or from the restaurant (in special cases they’ll both ways). Deciding which rides to pay for comes down to where the customer is going in relation to that particular TGIF location. Consider the happy hour example. Let’s say TGIF knows the average ride to or from a particular TGIF costs between $8 and $10. The Uber voucher during that time would cover roughly that amount. If a customer is using the voucher and needs to travel farther, they pay the difference.
One thing that has yet to be specified is how Uber and TGIF can track whether someone actually goes inside the restaurant and orders a meal.
Even with that question mark, Mityas confirmed on the podcast that the restaurant can make up the $8 or $9 it spends paying for someone’s ride through the extra volume the Vouchers program brings overall. This is why Uber Vouchers work especially well for happy hours and those dining later in the evening, where alcohol is typically a big part of the bill than it is at, say, 6 p.m., when lots of families are dining out.
Ride vouchers are also a way for the restaurant to promote special offers, like deals on drinks or appetizers, which can be promoted through the user’s Uber account. And, on a practical level, an Uber Voucher might get someone home more safely after one too many on a Friday night.
Uber Vouchers as yet hasn’t partnered with another major restaurant chain, though it does also work with MGM Resorts, whose entertainment options in Las Vegas provide more than a few reasons to need a voucher instead of your car.
Mityas says Uber Vouchers is active at between 40 and 50 TGIF locations on the east coast. Right now the chain is still in testing phase with the program, but should all go well, he sees a nationwide expansion of the program in the future.