At its event yesterday in San Francisco, Uber unleashed a slew of announcements and updates to its app, including merging Uber Eats into its main rideshare app, expanding its rewards program, and several other improvements geared towards bolstering the presence of Uber Eats in customers’ everyday lives.
Of all the food-centric news to come out of the event, what’s most interesting to us over here at The Spoon is Uber’s continued focus on ghost kitchens. The company announced yesterday it has teamed up with Rachel Ray to open a virtual restaurant whose menu will only be available on Uber Eats.
A blog post from Uber offered some details, though not a ton. The limited-time “restaurant” will run for 10 weeks in 10 cities and be timed with the launch of Ray’s new cookbook. Uber didn’t specify which cities and exactly when the launch will happen, but presumably the food will be cooked in one of the company’s growing number of ghost kitchens and delivered out to customers in a nearby radius.
The initiative highlights a new trend we’re seeing more of in ghost kitchens, which is using them to launch non-restaurant concepts that would be prohibitively expensive to test out in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting. Uber isn’t alone in this new arena: Grubhub has already launched two such initiatives, including a partnership with food publication Bon Appétit, which was announced earlier this week. Partnerships with big-name chefs seem a logical next step, and while the Uber-Rachel Ray deal is for a very limited time, it’s likely the first in what will be a long string of similar partnerships in future.
Rachel Ray wasn’t the only deal announced at the event yesterday. Uber Eats also unveiled an exclusive food delivery partnership with fast-casual chain Sweetgreen. Interestingly, the announcement comes the same week Sweetgreen closed a $150 million funding round and said it will launch its own in-house delivery service.
Uber made multiple other announcements yesterday that will affect Eats, including the news that it will merge its food delivery app into its main ride-hailing app. This “next generation of the Uber app,” as the company called it in a blog post, is currently testing two different versions of this new interface in “hundreds of U.S. and international cities.”
The company also highlighted allergy-friendly filters, which will let Eats customers communicate more effectively with restaurants about their dietary restrictions, and its forthcoming plans to make extras like cutlery and straws available only upon request.
With growth of its ride-hailing service stalling, including less-than-stellar earnings reports from Q2, it makes sense Uber is continuing to focus on its Eats business, though that business has yet to become profitable, either, and, as Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi noted on the Q2 earnings call, won’t be for some time. Whether celebrity chefs and allergy filters can actually make any real progress towards changing that remains doubtful.