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Uber Eats Now Wants People to Dine In at Restaurants

A new app option allows customers to pre-order food... then eat it at the restaurant

Amazon, Instagram and Uber app on Various Devices Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Food delivery services like GrubHub, Postmates, and Uber Eats have been adding pick-up options — ways to collect fees on food orders they don’t even have to physically deliver. Now, Uber Eats is taking things to the next level by testing new feature: order-ahead food that you can then eat at the restaurant like a normal customer.

Over the last few months a “Dine-in” option has appeared on Uber Eats user interfaces in some cities. The option, presented alongside “Delivery” and “Pickup” at the top of the app screen, is exactly what it sounds like. “When you place an order through the Eats app and you go to the restaurant to collect it,” reads the service’s FAQ. “You can then choose to sit in the restaurant to eat your food.” Users in an online forum for Uber drivers spotted the option back in November 2018 — one driver noted the option was essentially “Uber Eats’s wet dream, cutting out the drivers completely.”

An Uber spokesperson confirms to Eater that the Dine-in Uber Eats app option launched in select cities in November and is currently being piloted in Dallas, Austin, Tucson, and San Diego. Unlike the Uber Eats delivery option, which charges fees for having food orders placed, picked up, and driven to customers doors, the Dine-in feature does not charge diners a fee for the service. Restaurants are charged a fee, which “differs by market and restaurant but is typically lower than the fee they pay for delivery.” Customers also have the option to tip food service employees through the app, if the restaurant partner opts in.

Uber says that the Dine-in feature is one way the company is making an effort to “bridge the gap” between customers and restaurants. Many customers discover new restaurants by ordering delivery through the app, the company says, and the Dine-in option allows those customers to then experience their meal in person. “We want to enable restaurants to focus on what they’re best at — making amazing food and providing top-notch service,” an Uber spokesperson writes in a statement. “By allowing customers to order and pay in the app, we streamline the experience for both the customers and the restaurant.” There are no plans at this time for a wider rollout.

The move seems designed to cross-promote Uber, the people-moving service, and Uber Eats, the brand’s behemoth food-delivery arm (Uber Eats claims to be the largest delivery service outside China). In a June earnings call — the company’s first since going public in May 2019 — Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the service would experiment “ways in which we can upsell our ride customers to Eats deals in a way that — you know, to be plain spoken — isn’t annoying,” as Techcrunch reported. Khosrowshahi continued: “I will tell you that we are very, very early in the stages of exploring the many, many ways in which our Ride business can help continue to build our Eats business and vice versa.”

One obvious way would be to drive diners to restaurants where they’ve already ordered their meal, cutting down on any wait time on the part of the diner. Or, in Khosrowshahi speak, per that earnings call: “You can have very little if any cannibalization of a Ride and throw a significant amount of potential demand onto the Eats side.”

Uber, it seems, needs to figure out its Eats problem. Uber sold $7.9 billion (that’s billion with a b) worth of food on Uber Eats in 2018 and still lost money on it, though the company prefer to casts its investments in the Uber Eats platform as a loss leader that helps to build its overall brand. Earlier this month, it added Eats to the main Uber app, allowing users to order through the main app instead of the separate Uber Eats app.

“We’re always experimenting with ways to make the Eats customer, restaurant partner, and delivery partner experience better,” Uber Eats says of the Dine-in pilot. “This is one of those many test features.”

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