By Calum You
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting public health measures have severely impacted the restaurant industry. U.S. restaurants on the OpenTable network have seen their dine-in businesses shrink by nearly 90%. Smaller independent restaurants are especially vulnerable as many lack the necessary resources to weather the crisis. As a result, many have turned to take-out and delivery models to continue reaching customers, maintain revenue, and stay in business.
To better understand the impact of third party food delivery platforms on restaurants during this time, we worked with Manav Raj and Arun Sundararajan at New York University’s Stern School of Business on a study that looked at demand for small and medium sized restaurants on the Uber Eats platform. The study focused on five major U.S. cities — New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami and Dallas — and examined consumer and restaurant behavior from the start of the crisis. You can see the full working paper here.
The overarching finding from the study was that restaurants increased their reliance on third party delivery platforms during the COVID pandemic. From February 1st to May 1st there was a significant increase in demand for third party delivery from both consumers and restaurants.
Consumer demand for food delivery on Uber Eats increased by 25–75% since the start of the shelter-in-place orders. These findings demonstrate how communities increasingly turned to food delivery platforms at a time when trips to the grocery store or walks to the local cafe were difficult, particularly for vulnerable populations such as older adults and those living in food deserts without access to a car. To support these populations, we launched a nationwide partnership with Feeding America and World Central Kitchen to deliver over 300,000 meals to those who need them most, including the food insecure, the homebound elderly, families and more.
The study documented that restaurant sign-ups significantly increased during this period. Compared to the 2019 monthly average, 2.7x more small and medium sized restaurants signed up and became active on the Uber Eats platform in March. To meet the demand and ensure that new restaurants could quickly access third party delivery options during the crisis, we waived all activation fees and sped up our onboarding processes so that most new SMB restaurants could join the Uber Eats platform in less than 24 hours.
Although some Uber Eats partner restaurants closed during the crisis, the analysis showed that restaurants that remained open received on average 43% more orders each day due to the lockdown. This effect varies by city, however, with average daily order increases ranging from 20% more orders in Miami to 60% more orders in San Francisco since the start of the crisis. Strikingly, this increase in orders received each day was observed even as restaurants chose to operate for a lower number of hours per day. While some of this increase can be attributed to restaurant closures funneling demand to a smaller number of restaurants overall, they also point to the role of third party delivery platforms in helping restaurants pivot their businesses, and the role of the digital channel as a critical source of resilience during crisis.
As our community continues to face new challenges, Uber Eats remains committed to supporting independent restaurants. We’ve taken steps in the US to drive demand towards these restaurants by waiving the delivery fee for over 100,000 restaurants and launching targeted marketing campaigns to promote delivery from local restaurants. Most recently we’ve launched efforts to support Black-owned restaurants across the US & Canada. Uber Eats stands with the restaurant industry and is committed to emerging from this crisis stronger, together.