I was picking up food the other night on Bloor Street (via Uber Eats) and the lineup of delivery drivers outside of the restaurant was at least ten people deep when we arrived. While we were waiting, another handful of drivers pulled over to quickly pickup their deliveries. This is what is happening in our cities right now, especially here in Toronto while we live through another stay-at-home order. And the numbers certainly reflect it.
Last month in March, Uber’s delivery business (which is separate from the company’s mobility business) recorded a 150% year-over-year increase in annualized gross bookings. The company’s run-rate as of March is now $52 billion. To put this number into perspective, the company’s mobility business also had its best ever month in March with an annualized gross bookings run-rate of $30 billion.
Delivery > mobility right now. Makes sense.
To further put this into perspective, total restaurant spending across the entirety of the United States was $670 billion in 2019 (figure from Benedict Evans). So Uber Eats has quickly become a meaningful part of how we eat. I obviously believe that people are dying to get out and eat at restaurants again, but these figures are still interesting nonetheless.
It’s also interesting to think about the above trendline from a broader logistics perspective. Alongside the rise in Uber Eats, we are seeing a wave of capital move toward “rapid delivery apps.” These are platforms that allow meals, groceries, and other stuff to be delivered, in some cases, almost right away, which aligns with where I think consumers are moving. Rather than making lists and doing weekly shops, it’s now about just-in-time delivery.
It’s arguably a lazier way of going about things, but water will always find the path of least resistance.
Many, or perhaps most, of these platforms have adopted an asset light approach. Instacart, which partners with existing grocers, would fall into this category. Their model revolves around gig workers going into existing stores, picking orders directly from the shelves, and then delivering those orders. And it is what Blair Welch was getting at in his recent RENX interview when he reasoned that grocery shopping is still being done, almost exclusively, at local stores.
This approach is enough for Instacart to be valued at nearly $40 billion, according to the Financial Times. So something seems to be working.
I would welcome an app that allowed my device to connect with my supermarket as I arrive. It would interact with my grocery list and provide a route to pass every item with the most efficient travel. It would probably work best if my grocery list was compiled from the store inventory list. In these COVID-times it would be to the store’s advantage to reduce shopping time so they could increase the ‘churn’ when occupancy is limited.