Russ: Welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business. My guest today, a former guest on the BusienssMakers Show and former interviewer on The EnergyMakers Show, Sarah Groen, who is now the General Manager of UberEATS; Sarah, welcome back to The BusinessMakers Show.
Sarah: Hey Russ, thanks for having me.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about UberEATS.
Sarah: Sure. So UberEATS is Uber’s new on-demand food delivery service. What we’re doing is we’re trying to make it as easy to get food – and not only food but some of the best food in your city – as easy as it is to get an Uber.
Russ: Okay and we’re talking about doing this right here in Houston, Texas right?
Sarah: Yeah, so we are doing it in Houston, we launched several weeks ago. So in Houston we’ve partnered with some of the best restaurant partners in the city; so partners like Underbelly, Revival Market, Coltivare, Pondicheri and some of your local favorites that you may not have heard of before.
Russ: Okay, so some of those are kind on the upper end of the restaurant price scale right?
Sarah: Mmhm, yeah.
Russ: So do I need to have a nice budget for lunch in order to afford UberEATS?
Sarah: No, prices for lunch range anywhere from $6.00 to $12.00 and delivery is free so it’s pretty affordable for the busy professional who needs lunch in 10 minutes or less. And how we do that with some of the higher end restaurants is these chefs are really creative – I mean they’re artists of their own craft and so what they’re doing is they’re either finding menu items that work or they’re creating new, special menu items that are only on UberEATS.
Russ: So I’ve kind of always been a fan of restaurant delivery and I’ve had some good experiences and some bad experiences but it seems to be a rather complex step process that would make it slow in many of my experiences quite frankly, so how fast can you do this?
Sarah: So what we do at UberEATS is we deliver this food in 10 minutes or less. In Houston so far we’ve been delivering in under 5 minutes so we’re pretty excites about that.
Russ: Wow, but you’re restricting it to a certain geography right?
Sarah: Right, at this point in time we’re only available in Montrose, Midtown and Downtown which is a small core in the center of Houston, but we’ll be expanding from there.
Russ: I’m curious, when you expand – say you expand and eventually you’re out in Katy – can I still buy something from Underbelly way out in Katy?
Sarah: Well it depends. One of our promises is that we’re also delivering very high quality food so if the restaurant is too far away from your delivery area, we’ll be finding new kind of higher quality restaurants in those areas. So it really depends on a testing period and all of that and we’ll figure it out when we get there, but we’ll still be bringing you great food.
Russ: Okay, all right. So when I order do I have to choose the restaurant right then and I only get to order from that restaurant?
Sarah: So what the menu looks like is it’s a curated selection for you each day. So we try to offer 3 to 4 menu items and 1 to 2 desserts or compliments like a drink. And so that day you’ll have your choice between 3 different, really exciting menu items and the next day it’ll rotate and the next day it’ll rotate; so it’s an ever-changing menu so you never get tired of it.
Russ: But can I go order from multiple restaurants?
Sarah: Yeah, so if you like 2 or even all 3 of them items that are shown on the app that day or you want to order for your office and you want to order 1 for you, 1 for your friend you can certainly order both dishes.
Russ: So I’m wanting to order from UberEATS, is it the same app or a different app?
Sarah: It’s actually the same app that you would use to order an Uber. So you would pop up your Uber app and then at the top – we call it top bar – there are 2 different icons. So you’ll see a car which is how you would order a car and then a plate, knife and fork which is the UberEATS icon. If you click on that plate, knife and fork you’ll get to see our 3 menu items plus drink or compliment for the day and you just scroll down to the menu items, click what you want to order and hit request and then you’ll be able to track your UberEATS driver coming to you just as you would an Uber and you’ll get your food in 10 minutes or less.
Russ: Okay, well what happens if you’re just inundated with orders? Do you sort of adjust the delivery time then and say okay, we can’t hit 10 minutes today so it’s going to be 20 minutes?
Sarah: No. So it’s our goal to always make sure that it’s under 10 minutes; it does happen and it has happened since we just launched in Houston. We’re a startup and we’re learning that we do get inundated from orders, we’ve sold out a couple times and what we do is we adjust. So we have a demand algorithm that we use to kind of predict our demand numbers and we just make sure that we’re feeding more and more information into that and collecting more and more data so that we had enough on hand to serve the population.
Russ: I’m just curious, have you ever had an item in stock but actually delivered at 15 minutes instead of 10 minutes?
Sarah: I would have to look into the data. The last time I looked at it 99% of our deliveries in Houston were under 10 minutes, so there’s a chance that there was 1 or 2 that took over 10 minutes.
Russ: What do you do then, you just say I’m sorry?
Sarah: That will certainly happen as we grow. I mean if we do get a complaint we’ll say we’re sorry but generally people are still pretty stoked about a 15 minute delivery versus like an hour with what it would take for something else.
Russ: Very interesting. So I’m not necessarily dealing with the whole menu from these fancy restaurants that you mentioned, but they’re selected items that were selected and who designs that? I mean do you come up with the menu and say this is what we should offer today?
Sarah: We work really closely with our restaurant partners so these aren’t restaurants that we’re just scraping menu items off; we’re actually going in, we’re talking to them, we’re telling them all about the UberEATS service. They’re getting excited because they, in partnership with us, are able to offer a service to Houstonians that’s never been possible before. So we work together to choose menu items that are in the price point that we’re looking for, that we think will be really popular based on the data that we’ve collected in the 11 cities in North America and that they think will be popular based on their menu and then – most importantly – menu items that we think are going to travel really well and will hold up their quality over the time period. So we work together with the chefs to come up with several different options that fit those criteria and then we test them and only the best meals make it onto the UberEATS platform.
Russ: Okay. As you know we have a business audience here and I’m sure their wheels are turning like my goodness, how do you do this, but I mean sometimes you must have a restaurant that can’t perform like you want them to or they have a menu item that they built that isn’t successful, so I would assume that you are adding and subtracting menus as you go.
Sarah: It’s already happened several times in Houston. There are some restaurants who are extremely organized and helpful and move really quickly and then there are some that can’t handle the capacity or anything like that. And so if that happens then we part ways; we don’t sign restaurants to any long term contract so if we’re happy and they’re happy they get featured again on the platform, if they’re unhappy for whatever reason or we’re unhappy for whatever reason we had a great time partnering once and we can move on to different restaurants or different menu items.
Russ: Okay, so what are the plans for expansion geographically in Houston?
Sarah: So what’s interesting about UberEATS is that we are still new, we are a startup within a startup and plans change all the time. So at this point in time our first expansion is going to be geo expansion, so we’ll stay within lunch service areas but we’ll add additional areas to be able to receive UberEATS delivery. After that we can start to expand in terms of service hours, so instead of just doing lunch we can add dinner; L.A. for example is our oldest city on the UberEATS platform and they now deliver lunch, dinner, they deliver brunch on the weekends – so imagine breakfast tacos on Saturday or Sunday morning – and they’re also experimenting with late night right now.
Russ: My goodness. Okay but the UberEATS delivery people are the same people that are the UberEATS people people, right – that deliver people?
Sarah: Yeah, so UberEATS delivery partners are also, for the most part, many of them are UberX drivers and yes, they also can be on the platform to drive for UberX, just not at the same time that they’re delivering for UberEATS.
Russ: So the guy wouldn’t be bringing me back from the airport and say wait, I have to stop here and pick up something at El Tiempo and deliver it.
Sarah: No, that’s a common question but no, they are separate services so while they’re on UberEATS they’re not delivering. Although we’ve had people ask if they could just get in the car to go to the airport and have EL Tiempo with them in the car so maybe someday.
Russ: Real interesting. So looking at the money the way it flows, can an Uber driver make as well with UberEATS as they can delivering people?
Sarah: Yeah, that’s the idea right now. So UberEATS partners we’re pulling from the highest quality – so they’re the highest quality UberX drivers that drive during the day and they should be making comparable to more than they could be doing UberX at the same time.
Russ: My goodness, and what did you say you average in Houston delivery time?
Sarah: Right now we’re averaging under 5 minutes.
Russ: Okay, and so I would just be sitting there in my house waiting for the doorbell to ring and they would deliver it?
Sarah: So it’s actually curbside delivery, so you would be able to track your UberEATS driver coming to you just as you can track your UberX driver when you’re trying to get a ride and when he or she arrives or gets close you’ll get a notification and you meet them curbside.
Russ: So tell us how you spend your typical day?
Sarah: There really is no typical day at Uber and no typical day at UberEATS. I mean I could be at a restaurant one morning helping a new restaurant partner pack bags if that’s what they needed, I could be at the driver distribution site helping the driver partners or I could be in the office downloading data analytics and going through some of the data to make sure that we’re improving our service for our customers in the coming weeks.
Russ: Okay, I might assume that data and reviewing it is an important part of what Uber does to makes these decisions.
Sarah: So the one very, very cool thing about Uber is it’s a very data-driven company. We’re making as many decisions as possible based on data and facts. So every day I pull down the data for the service from the day before so I understand what meals sold, when, where, how fast, etcetera and I use that type of data to make decisions on purchasing decisions for the following week.
Russ: Does the analytics have some decision-making suggestions in it?
Sarah: So we have amazing data scientists at Uber and we actually do have a machine learning algorithm that we can plug some of that data to that will help us predict demand.
Russ: Okay, really interesting. So I want to stay up to date with you as you expand in services and so forth, we’d love to have you back on the show, is that okay with you?
Sarah: Yeah, I would love to, thanks.
Russ: All right, thank you very much for joining us today. And that wraps up my discussion with Sarah Groen, the General Manager of UberEATS. And this is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, built for business.
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