UberEATS is Finally Here in Philly

The new food-delivery platform will deliver food fast from some of the city's top spots.

Photo courtesy of UberEATS

Photo courtesy of UberEATS

Beginning Wednesday, Philadelphians can indulge in some of the best meals the city has to offer, delivered right to their doorsteps, via the new food-delivery app UberEATS. And for Wednesday’s launch in Philadelphia, the company is waiving the standard $4.99 flat rate delivery fee for a limited time.

As a standalone app, meaning users must download an app separate from the Uber ridesharing app, UberEATS is entering a crowded app-based food delivery marketplace.

In Philadelphia alone, Caviar, Postmates, GrubHub, and DiningIn (acquired by GrubHub), all already work to deliver meals on-demand to users and some even deliver office supplies and essentials from local drug stores. There’s also GoPuff started by two Drexel students, which stands by a 30-minute window for its snack deliveries.

But UberEATS, what Uber calls a “startup-within-a-startup,” is promising delivery times faster than its competitors, and says it won’t tack on any hidden service fees. Instead, it’ll stick to a flat rate for deliveries instead of calculating deliveries according to a percentage of the order like some other services. But users will still need to watch out for fees if they cancel.

Wednesday’s launch came with about 100 partner restaurants, and the company says food will be delivered 24 hours, 7 days a week, as long as restaurant providers are operating. And we know there’s late night demand for food in Philly, with people desperate enough to order from Downey’s through GrubHub after midnight.

To order a meal, users just need to log into the app, enter a delivery address, and scroll through the list of restaurants. Users who already have the ridesharing app are a step ahead — their credit card information and address will transfer over. And just like with an Uber ride, users can follow along on the map to see each turn their breakfast, lunch or dinner makes.

“You push a button, and your meal arrives. It’s really easy,” said Casey Verkamp, the general manager of UberEATS Philly. “You can be having a relaxing night in or you can be picnicking at a park or be at work, UberEATS will there for you. It’s a game-changer from the perspective of freeing you up to do other things with your time than be chasing down food.”

From West Philadelphia, at 7 a.m. Wednesday morning, I downloaded the app to take a look at my options. At that time I could only order from two locations — Marathon Grill on 16th Street in Center City, which was estimating a delivery time of 29 to 40 minutes and Matt and Marie’s in Rittenhouse, with a 31 to 42 minute delivery time. There was also a list of 49 “Closed” restaurants including Farmer’s Keep, El Vez, Chickie’s and Pete’s, Buddakan, The Cambridge and The Bake Shop on 20th, restaurants that would be available for delivery later in the day.

Average delivery time nationally is around 34 minutes, Verkamp said, claiming this time as a big differentiator between UberEATS and competitors.”We have such a wide courier network already in place so the deliveries are speedy and keep food high-quality,” she said.

Right now, the perimeter of the UberEATS coverage area touches East Falls and Germantown in the Northwest, Olney in the North and Port Richmond in the Northeast. Most of West Philadelphia is covered and all of South Philadelphia can be serviced through UberEATS. But a user in Kensington and a user in Kingsessing may see a different list of restaurants in the app, depending on each restaurant’s designated reach.

UberEATS Philly coverage area.

UberEATS Philly coverage area.

The food-delivery industry has battled complaints for years, whether it’s because the food is cold or disheveled when it arrives, or that an incorrect or completely wrong order was delivered.  UberEATs says it’s making customer service easier than usual. If there’s a problem, users can contact the customer support team from within the app and the company says it may even talk to you by phone, a big change from the email-only customer service on the ridesharing app.

“We’re excited to be part of the rollout partnership,” said Josh Levine, STARR Restaurant Group’s vice president of operations. “The way that Uber takes a person from one location to another is the same way that we look at hospitality. We have a guest-first mentality. Uber has a customer-first mentality also. We’ve experienced it. I think that was the easy thing [in making] this decision, how personally connected we are to Uber.”

The Starr Restaurants are rolling UberEATS out in three stages. The restaurants with first dibs, Pod, Buddakan, Jones, and El Vez, already have experience with delivery. Parc, Fette Sau, Butcher & Singer, Morimoto, Alma de Cuba, and Continental Old City will be rolled out in the later stages.

“We act as a consultant in some ways to the restaurants to help them continue to improve delivery and drive as much growth for the restaurant over time,” said Verkamp, citing examples of restaurants in other cities that have grown their business from doing no deliveries at all to doing 100 deliveries a day through UberEATS.

The new platform will also work to expand the Philadelphia region’s driver base, which already boasts 10,000 chauffeurs. Drivers who have an older car or a car with two doors, for example, will be eligible to shuffle meals around the city.

While UberEATS is new to Philadelphia (we’ve been waiting on it for some months now), it has already been rolled out in a number of other cities including Toronto, the site of the first launch, and other locations like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston.

Uber recently hit its two-billionth ride worldwide, and the company, which has been estimated to be valued at $68 billion, says it’s testing out a number of other projects as well.

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