Lots of useful data in this breakdown of the food delivery market, including visualizations of service areas.
It is notable that the services are tipped toward higher earners, which suggests that McDonald’s is not the meal of the future. A greater variety of healthy foods will be available to the home in the coming decade.
Why hasn’t a curated healthy meals service appeared?
Ford is testing autonomous vehicles with delivery service Postmates in the Miami area. The catch is, the cars’ automation is merely simulated to gather feedback from customers about the experience. A driver is hiding behind tinted glass.
The reality is Ford is testing car configurations. With three lockers, the Ford vans in Miami will roll up and open the appropriate locker for the customer. The question is whether people will be unnerved by driverless cars, but we suspect the findings will be that a three-locker vehicle will be hard-pressed to operate efficiently. Since customers must leave their house and walk to the van, the challenges are letting people know when the delivery is available and how quickly the van can move on to the next stop.
The next time you order food from Postmates in Miami or Miami Beach, don’t be too surprised if you have to grab your Cuban sandwiches from what looks like a self-driving van. Ford’s latest autonomous delivery test is underway, as the automaker has partnered with Postmates to bring you goods from more than 70 local businesses. But there’s actually a driver behind the tinted windows — Ford says the Transit Connects give the appearance that they’re autonomous vehicles.
Singapore grocer revamps processes to augment people. These are the steps every business needs to think about, whether they sell 100,000 products or one service: How to personalize and perfect customer experience.
At online grocer RedMart, it is a complex operation comprising an automated tool that helps staff members decide where items should be placed in its mammoth warehouse in Jurong, which holds more than 100,000 products.
Smart & Final, a Western U.S. grocery chain, has launched an app built on Instacart APIs. Adding services such as chat to be in contact a personal shopper while they are in-store assembling an order makes this an innovative and forward-looking tool that addresses several of the local grocery marketing issues I’ve identified in the recent fooddeliveryseries.
Interaction while purchase decisions are in play is a smart move, though there are many more steps to take. With this capability, a personal shopper could suggest an item that is on sale instead of a brand defined by the customer. But this will work gracefully only if the customer gets a say in the decision.
Chat provides an interface for that conversation, as well as for feedback and preference capture that can be used to further personalize the customer’s food delivery.
The companies have collaborated since 2015. Progress takes time, and Smart & Final’s Instacart strategy is evolving in the right direction.
As noted in previous coverage of food and grocery delivery, the Walmart/DoorDash relationship involves a complicated process that includes Walmart staff assembling the order, coordinating with DoorDash drivers to pickup and deliver, and a Walmart-branded delivery experience. DoorDash’s services are treated purely as a commodity added to the process, which minimizes the potential to capture feedback from consumers.
The next evolution of logistics and service management software needs to integrate the people doing the work into this process to build meaningful engagements with consumers. A driver could, for example, ask the customer to check the order. As they do, the driver might collect comments, such as “I forgot to order cheddar cheese” or “These peaches are bruised” for use in follow-up.
Not everyone who orders groceries will be at home when the delivery arrives, certainly, but if Walmart wants to find upselling opportunities, it needs to empower every layer of the delivery infrastructure and service providers with simple apps to capture situational and personalization data to improve the efficiency, satisfaction, and margins.
Prepared food delivered to the home from local chefs and restaurants is the most significant area of investment and activity in food delivery based on capital raised to date. The notion that prepared meals delivered to the diner will supplant home-cooked meals, as well as the need to shop for ingredients, as logistics matures is an article of faith for these companies and their investors.
Globally, food delivery companies are worth approximately $19 billion after initial public offerings by GrubHub ($8.7 billion public market cap), Berlin-based Delivery Hero ($8.9 billion), and London’s Takeaway.com ($2.42 billion). U.S. delivery companies have raised $1.45 billion in venture funding, led by DoorDash ($721.7 million), GrubHub, which raised $276.6 million in venture funds before its IPO, Postmates ($278 million), and Freshly ($107 million).
It remains to be seen whether the current $641.53 billion grocery store market, as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau will retain customers or lose them to the $799 billion restaurant industry as it expands into home delivery.
Technology is disintermediating meals and their makers. Logistics systems allow raw ingredients, prepped ingredients, or prepared food to be delivered in comparable timeframes. The introduction of platforms such as GrubHub and UberEATS has disrupted the traditional marketing and sales relationship that the restaurant maintains with the customer. So much of the restaurant experience that has revolved around the physical proximity of diner and server, the locus of upselling to increase average ticket price per diner, must evolve in the age of delivery.
The growth in prepared food delivery justifies that reinvention. As many as 22.3 million U.S. consumers are expected to spend $22.4 billion on delivery food in 2018, according to Statista, which also projects the market will grow to $44.6 billion in 2022. Food delivery is more prominent overseas, for example China’s 2018 delivery revenue alone is expected to be $48.5 billion. For purposes of this analysis, the focus is the U.S. market.
The emerging market for prepared food delivery has focused on two primary approaches: On-demand ordering from existing restaurants ferried by a driver to the home, and; Centralized kitchens offering prepared food through their own or third-party couriers.
Overcoming moving targets, spoiling food
Restaurant delivery is more complicated than grocery and boxed ingredients delivery because it is time-sensitive. Customers who order a prepared meal are waiting for a meal delivery, where grocery delivery can take place in a longer window of time. No grocery delivery service promises service in less than an hour, but every restaurant delivery suffers from each passing minute after it is boxed.
Sour Greenshoots Photography
An hour is an eternity in food service. Many delivery services, notably Uber EATS, emphasize the worst aspects of customer experience by requiring the customer to wait at the front door or curb for the driver. Phone in hand and dressed for the cold, I recently watched on the UberEATS map my dinner’s progress as the driver stopped for a pizza, got stuck in traffic, and ultimately arrived 20 minutes later than promised. The food was cold and my customer experience consisted of the driver’s repeated apologies.
Nonetheless, prepared delivery is growing by leaps and bounds.
The NPD Group, a Chicago-based market research company, reported that delivery sales surged by 20 percent in 2017. App-based orders grew to 51 percent of delivery sales, as well. “Delivery has become a need to have and no longer a nice to have in the restaurant industry,” NPD Group senior vice president of industry relations Warren Solochek said. Diners order delivery or visit restaurants to pick up food more than 1.7 billion times annually in the U.S.
The U.S. market is dominated by GrubHub and UberEATS, which saw 2018 gross food sales of $3.8 billion and $3 billion, respectively. Second Measure, an analytics firm, reports that GrubHub accounts for 52.1 percent of the U.S. delivery market, while UberEATS took 19.9 percent in 2017. DoorDash and Postmates, the next tier of restaurant delivery services that account for 32 percent of the market, are reportedly discussing a merger to hold their position.
After deducting the cost of food, delivery providers take between 25 percent and 30 percent of the cost of a meal, which is tacked on as a fee. Out of this, they pay the courier, their marketing costs, and operating expenses.
GrubHub’s public numbers demonstrate how difficult restaurant delivery can be. While active diners increased by 77 percent in 2017, the company’s revenues reached $783.1 million, up only 26 percent year-over-year. On $3.8 billion in sales, GrubHub eked out a net income of $99 million, a margin of 2.6 percent. UberEATS, which said in December that it is profitable in more than 40 cities globally, did not disclose enough information to calculate a margin, but its delivery fees hover around 30 percent of the meal price.
Platform coordination meets the dinner rush
The traditional restaurant’s business model is under assault because logistics eliminates the ability to plan food purchases based on seating capacity. Restaurants have long been able to estimate how much food they need based on being able to seat and turnover tables a predictable number of times a day. With delivery, demand may soar one day and evaporate the next, leading to more dissatisfied customers on busy days or immense food waste on unexpectedly slow days.
Source: Meal Prep Delivery
Waste compounded by the time element in prepared food delivery increases costs, too. For years, pizza delivery companies have sought ways to keep pies delicious, even going to the extreme of completing cooking in the delivery vehicle. All food, warm or cold, spoils with the passage of time.
The time-honored tradition of sending back a poorly prepared meal is virtually impossible in the delivery era, and it would only amplify the difficulty of earning a profit from deliveries. Nevertheless, we believe diners’ sense of accountability will eventually empower them to send back spoiled food – the service is too expensive to support a “no returns” policy.
Since local restaurants must decide to be on one or all of the local delivery services available, they face a daunting in-restaurant challenge: Managing inbound orders from multiple sources in addition to their management systems. Reuters showed in late 2017 an example of one location with five dedicated tablet devices needed to respond to orders on GrubHub, UberEATS, DoorDash, and other delivery platforms. The integration of delivery services into restaurant management systems should be a prime focus for the major platforms.
The primary argument in favor of the national and global delivery platform brands, such as GrubHub, UberEATS, Postmates, and DoorDash, is their ability to market and attract diners. They have concentrated more on delivery than merchandising and selling restaurants’ unique features. Consequently, specials of the day based on local ingredients or challenging to acquire ingredients such as fresh fish, are deemphasized in the ordering process.
Chefs who build a media persona can leverage the desire to taste their food, but delivery is a departure from the traditional world where chefs and waiters provided extensive information, explaining specials and greeting diners to build word of mouth. All these are absent in restaurant delivery. Customers are not likely to spend additional time while ordering required to upsell to the most profitable dish. Wine and beer sales, a staple of restaurant profit margins, are segregated to specialized delivery services designed to confirm customers are of age to drink. The opportunity to sell a dessert at the conclusion of the meal is missing.
We believe restaurants will need a more dynamic menu and selling system to communicate naturally with diners as they order – it will likely need voice interfaces and real-time chat or conversation. Consultative communication is the essential tool for individual or small chain restaurants to increase their profitability through upselling and specialization.
At larger scales, however, a media-savvy regional chef is enabled to scale their business using a platform in ways that were impossible before.
The old dream from the IBM commercial about selling a guitar to “every person on the Internet” flickers back to life here, but we are sophisticated enough 20 years later to recognize that exclusivity is essential for high-value experience to be attractive. Not everyone wants a guitar, nor do they all want Cat Cora’s cooking. But a lot more would like to try Cat Cora’s meals than can do so today. Connecting and staying engaged with a loyal and growing following based on extensive media asset investment does promise to make some chefs as ubiquitous as McDonald’s or Chipotle, which also have joined the delivery race.
Centralizing local food preparation
Meal times remain relatively fixed around the industrial workday. Such regularity has enabled a promising version of prepared food delivery, the centralized kitchen that prepares and serves meals via courier.
Source: Shopfitting Concepts
Peach, a Seattle-based startup, for example, developed a successful lunch delivery program featuring food from local restaurants prepared in a centralized kitchen. With $10.7 million in funding, it is a small player in an emerging locally focused approach to food preparation that focuses on serving offices with more than 50 workers. In essence, Peach schedules meals ahead of time, and so can order with clear supply requirements in mind and serve out large deliveries to increase efficiency.
Munchery, a San Francisco centralized delivery company assembles many chefs and staff to prepare a wide variety of foods, is taking the concept to the home. The company, with $125.4 million in venture funding to date, offers a wide range of a local food market without having to connect dozens of kitchens to couriers and, ultimately, customers. Like Peach, it enjoys better inventory management while offering a much broader array of foods than a single restaurant could.
Munchery and Peach’s focus on local ingredients also makes this category the most sustainable form of prepared food delivery. As Millennials and Gen-Z age into adulthood, they will demand planet friendly services – 73 percent already do, according to Nielsen – and local sourcing is the most efficient and least environmentally taxing form of food production.
The centralized kitchen approach may also be the path for local restauranteurs to step into competition with national delivery services. Whether by offering their kitchen to share with other chefs or by moving into collective kitchens with a delivery component, local restauranteurs could achieve similar scale advantages as GrubHub or UberEATS. The local chef’s ability to differentiate by celebrating food in season, developing rituals around local foods and in-season specials, place them on a more intimate footing with diners than the national delivery platforms.
As restaurants, which face declining sales as the delivery tide rises, close or consolidate, the centralized kitchen appears poised to be the strategy of necessity for local chefs seeking to earn a living. These facilities, like major national players, must build around robust communication, an extensive library of food-related content, and local reviews and customer word-of-mouth programs that:
Provide context and expertise to diners seeking unique, not merely consistent, food experiences;
Respond quickly and efficiently to changing food supplies throughout the year;
Improve the utilization of food purchased and the profitability of food prepared and delivered;
Support the full-meal experience, including beverages paired with foods (which means establishing a method for providing alcohol with the meal), upselling of specials and high-margin dishes such as dessert, and, perhaps, home clean-up after a meal.
Provide transparent and fair payment for cooks, couriers, and the enabling technology companies.
In the final installment of this series, we’ll look across the three major categories of food delivery, groceries, pre-prepped boxed ingredients, and restaurant delivery to identify essential themes for future development.
Continuing our look at the on-demand delivery of food, which is becoming mainstream in 2018, it is time to explore subscription food delivery pioneered by publicly traded Blue Apron and HelloFresh in the U.S. and Europe, respectively.
Boxed meals provide curated ingredients and recipes to cooks who prepare the food at home. It is the second leg of a growing home delivery industry, one that provides potentially powerful marketing advantages compared to grocery delivery (see the previous installment). Like groceries-on-demand, these companies seek to relieve the customer of shopping for the raw materials of a meal. Restaurant delivery, which will be our next subject, seeks to displace food preparation altogether.
The meal-in-a-box model has even captured President Donald Trump’s attention. His administration has suggested “Harvest Boxes” of produce and cheese have been suggested as a new alternative to food stamp programs in the United States. Trump’s idea may be a prescription for monotonous eating straight out of the 1960s, but commercial food boxes have focused on providing variety, intriguing culinary choices, and add-on products, such as wine.
We believe subscription food services are the most flexible marketing platform among the food delivery competitors.
Born when there was an Uber for everything
The subscription food segment emerged in 2012, when HelloFresh and Blue Apron were founded on early enthusiasm for the Uber model. Like other on-demand businesses, these companies built deliberately as the infrastructure and data tools needed to coordinate logistics across the food preparation industry evolved.
HelloFresh, based in Berlin, raised $364.5 million in seven rounds before launching an $393 million IPO in November 2017. HelloFresh stock has added 47.5 percent since its debut. Last month, the company acquired GreenChef, a Denver-based sustainable ingredients subscription food company in its first acquisition.
Blue Apron, which went public in June 2017, has struggled by comparison. It’s shares are down almost 37 percent since its IPO. The New York-based company had collected $199.4 million in funding over six rounds. The company lost customers during 2017, falling 27.9 percent from 1.036 million customers in the first quarter of 2017 to 746,000 as of December 31, 2017. This may be due to seasonality in Blue Apron’s business – cooks may prefer to shop for holiday meals.
However, HelloFresh says its active customer based increased by 68.6 percent in 2017 to 1.45 million across the U.S. and European markets. For now, HelloFresh is certainly the market leader.
Unlike the market for grocery and restaurant delivery, the boxed food business is not primarily a time-saver at meal-time. As noted previously, shopping takes between 4.45 hours (among men) and 6.35 hours (among women) of time each week.
Boxed food is designed for people who savor cooking and the time it takes. It represents an opportunity to change the mix of products a cook uses, and so should be considered a direct competitor to high-end grocers, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
Scale & Optimization
The on-demand economy is the result of converging logistical, marketing, and data management capabilities. The boxed food delivery model is the most dependent of the emerging food businesses on continuous optimization of its processes because of the higher fixed costs of operating food processing and distribution centers.
Unlike grocery delivery, which is dependent on the stock at a local supermarket, or restaurant deliveries, which also rely on a third-party to gather and prepare food, boxed deliveries are a closed supply chain to be managed. New categories of food may be added, but at the cost of added management overhead associated with food production and safety regulation. Where Instacart can add a product for a consumer by having a contractor-shopper toss it in a grocery cart, box food suppliers must plan to modify their recipes, acquire food, and plan for weekly acquisitions to make a change to their offerings.
Boxed food delivery enjoys few of the scale benefits of on-demand businesses such as Instacart and Uber. Full-time staffing in food delivery is tightly linked to the number of partnerships and supply chain sources that must be managed. Built around distribution centers, these organizations must staff heavily to certify food safety, manage preparation, and ensure timely delivery. Blue Apron reported 3,938 full-time employees in January, 2018, three months after laying off six percent of its workforce. HelloFresh employed 2,715 at the end of 2017 and added 600 employees with the GreenChef acquisition in March.
HelloFresh, Blue Apron, GreenChef, and others, such as Chef’d, which markets top chef-recommended recipes, or Martha Stewart’s Marley Spoon, which delivers seasonal ingredients, must engage in deep partnerships with growers, distributors and shipping partners to ensure profitability. Like a grocery store, the box delivery companies must work to minimize food waste, which can be a crippling cost. And the boxes used represent a sustainability issue, as they become waste in the consumer’s home after only one use.
Compared to the average revenue per employee in the grocery industry in the fourth quarter of 2017, which was $438,138 according to CSIMarket.com, HelloFresh and Blue Apron have made excellent progress. HelloFresh, at $333,296 per employee, and Blue Apron’s $221,238 per employee are progressing toward parity with grocers. This suggests that with a full range of differentiated menus and established supplier relationships, the companies can compete effectively with both grocery and restaurant delivery as consumers’ eating habits change.
A marketing platform, not simply a fulfillment system
Boxed food is curated food, making the industry a natural marketing platform. Because the delivery box is a marketing stage, in which the customer must be delighted and surprised to feel they’ve received their money’s worth, HelloFresh and its competitors are better positioned to increase sales per customer and to introduce variety into their product.
Being able to add new ingredients, mix in novel recipes, and up-sell complementary products, such as wine to go with a boxed meal, these companies can market more effectively than grocery delivery competitors. By contrast, a grocery delivery company cannot pull out an item their customer explicitly ordered to provide an alternative sample, even if it’s a better flavor or deal. Customers don’t want their choices overruled.
Ingredient box customer engagements are defined by the number of servings to be produced using the ingredients in a box. Two- and four-person packages are the norm in boxed delivery, but the variety of ingredients can be changed daily to accommodate changing tastes. The model also does not rely on the cook to select foods, but offers a “best-of” experience that cooks expect to see change. GreenChef, for example, varies ingredients by season and is exploring local food sourcing in some regions.
HelloFresh reports that it currently is “mostly focused on weeknight dinners” and is experimenting with breakfast, lunch, and weekend premium meals. It distributes seven to 12 different recipes and plans to expand the options. Growing variety will be essential to retaining customers, who can become bored eating the same foods. Selection of more profitable products, premium programs with higher price points, and in-box offers provide subscription box food companies with greater marketing power than delivery-only providers in the grocery and restaurant markets.
The human touch defines curation and it is the soul of marketing. Boxing foods and recipes, adjusting delivery timing and personalization of box contents to address food allergies, and integrating content, such as chef-lead cooking programs, are pathways to introducing many more products to the customer. These moves will come at scale, as HelloFresh and other experiment with segmentation and improved meal planning, which will amplify the variety of food experiences available.
The box may contain the seeds of a transformation in food marketing. Because of the planning and merchandizing involved in box food delivery, we believe it will remain an important part of alternative food distribution for years to come. Now, newer companies are emphasizing specific cuisines, for example, or the use of sustainable sources. We believe local food boxes can become successful based on direct-selling and grocery partnerships.
Yet the boxed food market will take time to evolve, perhaps more slowly than the contractor-based alternatives. But the prospect of deep curation of food, which can cut waste, improve diet, and reduce the complexity and cost of food supply planning make this a compelling sector for continued investment.
Over the next several postings, we’ll examine the state of food delivery, how the competition has played out, consolidated, and morphed into several distinct flavors of food-to-the-doorstep. Groceries, pre-packaged foods for preparation, and prepared foods have each spawned intense experimentation to conveniently reach, by our estimate, more than 65 percent of the U.S. population. Compared to only two years ago, when I assessed the availability of on-demand services in the U.S. for BIAKelsey, at a time when only densely urban areas were served, the accessibility of grocery delivery and other on-demand services has increased by twelve-fold from 5.1 percent of Americans.
In 2016, the U.S. American Time Use Survey found that 44.6 percent of Americans (40.3 percent of men and 48.6 percent of women) spent part of each weekday purchasing goods and services, and about 10 percent more time during weekends. The average time a week spend shopping by women that year was 6.35 hours and 4.45 hours among men.
Taking the total employed adult population, approximately 126.4 million people as a base, the time spent on shopping by people who could pay for delivery to use their time in other ways represents 2.17 billion hours of addressable service time for food delivery companies. We feel this is a conservative estimate, as the partly employed (those working in the gig economy) and retired may be able to trade reasonable delivery fees for additional free time.
Instacart has stayed a determined course, refining its home delivery and shopping experience to establish delivery services in 4,500+ U.S. cities and towns, from Alabaster, Alabama, to Waunakee, Wisconsin.
Instacart raised $200 million in February 2018 to bring its funding to date on a to $874.8 million with a valuation of $4.2 billion. Having started out as a Y Combinator company in 2012, Instacart has kept a small group of top-tier VCs engaged in each round, adding Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Kleiner Perkins, followed in the February round by two private equity firms. These are patient investors who poised for a huge payday when the company goes public. Instacart remains quiet on its IPO plans.
Relative to other on-demand companies that continue to burn money to acquire market share, Instacart is an efficient operation because it builds on grocer partnerships that give it access to millions of customers, instead of relying solely on consumers to discover and use the service. The partners launch in-store marketing for Instacart, complemented by Instacart’s online outreach.
Ravi Gupta, Instacart’s CFO told CNBC on the latest funding that the company has “more money than we need” to compete effectively. The reason is simple: Instacart is the promiscuous delivery partner. Instacart has partnered with grocery chains large and small, including Safeway, Costco, Whole Foods, and many others. Amazon and Walmart, by contrast, must rely on their own chains’ traffic to get consumer delivery orders.
Grocery delivery is repeating an earlier platform economy pattern, the walled garden. Amazon and WalMart are seeking to enclose their shoppers in a comfortable but closed garden of consumer delights while Instacart can burst through brand limitations to shop multiple stores, if necessary, to cater to exactly what the consumer wants.
Personalization also brings us to the challenge we see for grocery delivery in particular. Instart has limited promotional capabilities and suggesting products to a shopper using their phone to repeat an order can be perceived as interruptive, using their time to say “No” to things they don’t want.
Traditional marketing by grocery stores tended to rely on weekly pricing cadences supported by mailers and inserts in local papers. Effective though it was, it also produced over-stocking of some items and understocking of others, delivering waste and dissatisfaction among shoppers who couldn’t get what they wanted when visiting the store. Rain-checks for sale prices still take time at the cashier counter, and food rots in bins behind the store when it turns out shoppers didn’t want as much produce or specially priced bread as planned.
Instacart’s challenge will be how to provide their shopping staff insights into suggesting products to consumers to anticipate their willingness to try a new fruit or a different, more sustainable packaging for meat, milk, or other wasteful containers. Marketers will also need to understand how to use sampling — dropping “Try Me” products into an order with a simple mechanism for adding it to future orders if the consumer likes it. Searching for a new product will not be attractive. If a customer wants a sample flatbread pizza they received as a promotion, it must be suggested the next time they pick up their phone to shop.
This brings Instacart back to an element of traditional groceries which keeps people coming in to query the butcher, the produce staff, and in-store experts about how to prepare a meal or a new ingredient. Instacart will need to enable its delivery staff with contextual information to help improve the shopper’s experience politely and successfully. The oceans of transactional data already piled up in grocery chain systems will need to be analyzed and linked to the conversation Instacart has with shoppers through its app and when the Instacarter is standing at the customer’s front door.
Although Uber and Waymo settled there intellectual property case last week, the status of workers as independent contractors took a new twist in a California court. Worker payment, training, retention, and earnings drove much of this week’s on-demand news. During 2018, worker retention will be a major issue for on-demand companies.
Wirecard, a German payment card vendor, is bringing pre-paid cards for on-demand work to the United States, Payment Source reports. As we noted recently, payment cards are a lever for bringing the unbanked out of the gray economy. The technology avoids engaging with the payee’s bank account. Direct-deposits add costs to payments while prepaid cards are easily distributed, Wirecard argues. Kate Fitzgerald writes: “Wirecard’s ability to function as both an issuer and acquirer enables customized disbursement programs ranging from reimbursements to rebates and rewards, is a positive, but not entirely unique.”
Waymo-Uber Settlement: After months of tense preparation, an appearance by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and a couple days of courtroom testimony, the Battle of Autonomous Cars Case came to a close. Uber has agreed to transfer slightly more than one-third-of-one-percent of its shares to Alphabet, Waymo’s parent company, and to submit to ongoing reviews by Waymo of its autonomous car developments. That stock, valued at $244 million, based on Uber’s largely fictitous $72 billion valuation, which was deeply diluted by SoftBank’s recent investment, Uber settled for about a quarter of the damages Waymo had been seeking.
We believe the significant move in the case came from new Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has made apologizing for, and improvement of, Uber’s behavior the hallmark of his leadership.“While I cannot erase the past, I can commit, on behalf of every Uber employee, that we will learn from it, and it will inform our actions going forward,” Khosrowshahi wrote in a statement. Again, this is Uber growing up.
Women see Uber pay gaps, despite algorithmic work assignments. The wage gap persists in the on-demand economy, partly due to the duration of their Uber driving career. Forbes’ Erik Sherman reports that researchers at Stanford University and the University of Chicago found in separate reports that women consistently earn seven percent less than men. Part of the difference is accounted for in shorter driving engagements by women generally — female drivers churn out of the fleet faster than men, reducing their compensation over their Uber earnings lifetime. However, the culprit appears to be in the cost and time involved in training to become a driver, use the Uber apps, and build a consistent practice of driving.
Grubhub gets Yum-y. The holding company that operates Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, Yum Brands, is investing $200 million in Grubhub, by buying the stock on the open market. The company will also sign an agreement with Grubhub to deliver KFC and Taco Bell food from 5,000 locations in the United States. Yum will take a board seat. Grubhub shares shot up 27 percent on the news., and have given back much of the gain in the market correction.
Quartzy says hairstyling is all about relationships. In a piece that details the rise and fall of several on-demand beauty companies, Noël Duan details the travails of hair care in the jet set, suggesting it does not translate to the consumer needs of the average person needing a “blow out” at work or home. She concludes that customers want to go to salons because it is a special occasion and that the relationsjip with the stylist is central to the perceived value of a beauty experience. That last element, the personal relationship is the deciding factor in most home and on-demand services: People want to know their preferences are understood.
Duan conflates in-salon experience, like the free glass of champagne proferred to guests, with the intimacy of the experience. The edge of the network is made of human relationships, not just the details of the engagements that justify an on-demand hairstyling that is twice the price of a salon. On-demand is poised to deliver the same experience as the salon for the same or a lower price, because there is no overhead for the A-list location of a high-end salong. But Duan is right that if the human connection is missing, the industry will fail.
Deliveroo faces union showdown. The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain has requested a review of a November ruling that denied its riders holiday pay, the national living wage, and the right to bargain as a collective. The case now revolves around a clause in the Deliveroo contract relating to the rider’s obligation to provide a substitute if they cannot make a delivery, which the union says was misinterpreted by the court last year. The disputed clause makes the rider responsible to vet the replacement’s right to work and conformity with health and safety laws, a role traditionally relegated to the employer. The outcome, along with the results of other British, European, and U.S. cases, continues the debate about the nature of work and employment.
Amazon’s attack on grocery stores ramps up. Building on its Whole Foods acquisition last year, Amazon has tapped the Dallas and Austin, Texas, Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Cincinnati markets for free two-hour delivery of groceries. Bloomberg Technology reports the twist is that the Whole Foods locations will provide the inventory instead of relying on a regional warehouse. Known as Prime Now (apps are available on Apple and Google devices), the service is the first to combine Amazon’s Prime program with grocery delivery. Philadelphia grocers are preparing for the Amazon Prime onslaught with Instacart partnerships, The Inquirer reports.
Shipping By Amazon, for Amazon. The news that Amazon will build its own in-sourced shipping capability shocked the shares of United Parcel Service and FedEx last week. This makes sense from a local perspective, as much of the last-mile delivery traffic is outsourced to the United States Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS today. However, Amazon’s inventory systems will be the ultimate driver of shipping strategy, and most inventory needs to be near big cities. Amazon’s extensive regional warehousing system is in place to support Prime two-day and other shipping. Getting inventory to the warehouses, however, if an inter-modal shipping problem that requires multiple carriers and alternative routes if one mode of shipping is unavailable. This is not the death knell for traditional shipping, but it does place the focus in traditional shipping on the longest hops in the supply chain.
Instacart is slashing delivery fees.The Buffalo News reports that Instacart drivers and shoppers in the region are seeing their compensation cut by more than 50 percent. Just six months after launching with a $10 payment for each order delivered, shopper/drivers now average $4.75 a delivery plus $0.40 per item. It would require an order of 13 items to reach the previous $10/delivery level. Instacart offered a rich bonus for early delivery staff, but has failed to explain why its fees to drivers appear to be falling. The company is hoping repeat orders will include more items, and that may be an erroneous assumption.
Facebook doles out $5 million to community leaders. The story of local markets, which Facebook would like to support through improved storytelling and local advertising, will get a big boost from its selection of as many as five people to receive $1-million grants to “bring people closer together.” We recomnmend starting with local news and that Facebook refrain from seven-figure contributions to kick-start community engagement; Instead, find 200 journalists in local markets who will cover those markets closely and with real engagement with the citizens, business, and government issues. Pay them $50,000 a year to launch local Facebook-hosted communities and the results will be better.
Every week sees a new “peak” or “maximally absurd” on-demand economy story, and this was no exception. As I rundown of recent news and data points of interest to on-demand companies, investors, and workers, I keep in mind that this transformation of our economy remains controversial.
It’s a commonplace to argue that “We get the society we’re born into,” but in this era, we can redesign society during our lifetimes. The vast majority of human generations have been stuck in their times because of the slow advance of knowledge and technology. The on-demand economy is only one aspect of a renegotiation of social value, and it can do far better than the first generation of companies if we keep worker retention based on fairness. We need to argue about this passionately and patiently to evolve a more sustainable and equitable economy in the era of technological acceleration.
Send your “Human Uber” instead of going yourself.New York Magazine points to the announcement that Japanese researchers have developed an iPad-based solution to sending someone in your stead. Dubbed a “human Uber” and announced at an MIT form, this may be the most ridiculous and dehumanizing gig economy idea yet, as proved by an Arrested Development running gag based on the idea during its first run on television.
Slapping an iPad over a person’s face to send them to be present for you is stupid and dehumanizing. The joke on Arrested Development revolved around a rich man sending a shlub to attend meetings while he was in prison. Telepresence, on the other hand, makes sense. Scott Hanselman, a former colleague at Microsoft, accomplished a proxy presence without subjecting a human to serving as a meat puppet. Scott worked remotely, sending “Hanselbot,” a rolling platform with a screen, to meetings in Redmond. We don’t need to subject people to this.
Josephine announced it will be shutting down in March. Founder Charley Wang, co-founder of the Oakland-based community cooking service, announced the move on the company’s blog Thursday. “We knew that Josephine was an ambitious idea from day one and, as you all know, there have been many highs and lows over the years,” Wang wrote. “At this point, our team has simply run out of the resources to continue to drive the legislative change, business innovation, and broader cultural shift needed to build this business.” Enabling neighbors to cook for one another, Josephine invested in changing California law to allow home-based cooks to sell their food. The site will operate for 60 days, free to the cooks. Wang also said Josephine will transfer cooks’ business information and recommendations for next steps to their members.
Centralized kitchens bets are growing.Kitchen United, a Pasadena kitchen designed to support restaurant delivery and catering services, raised additional funding this month, according to Pasadena Business Now. Combining food preparation with order and delivery infrastructure, the company offers kitchen space by the hour or month to restaurants.
Evernote CEO predicts multi-role software services for on-demand workers. In a short piece on Business News Daily, Chris O’Neill, CEO of Evernote, described an emerging software environment based on users with many work and organizational roles rather than one. He is betting his company on understanding small business’ use of services to establish networks of “products and services.” We wholeheartedly agree with this philosophy at Gig Economy Group. Integration of services will be essential to consumers, as well, because the prospect of managing multiple on-demand services through dedicated apps will be too complicated. “The biggest bid we’re making as a company is to make the product more powerful when you use it with other people, team settings, group settings, nonprofits,” O’Neill said.
African household labor market points to lower marketplace fees. Workclick, a U.S.-Nigerian startup said it will take only 20 percent of worker revenue as a fee for connecting them with customers. Workclick’s app is offered in the U.S., but the workers appear to be only in Nigeria, where it has about 5,000 people on the platform. Low-income countries may be where lower marketplace fees initially take hold in on-demand work. U.S. companies like Uber have taken between 25 percent and 30 percent of revenue. In an age when Amazon and Wal-Mart thrive on sub-10 percent margins, on-demand marketplaces should expect to see their share of revenue under pressure. In low-income countries, labor marketplaces will not support high fees. Workclick’s initial fee structure hasn’t gone that far, but it’s a step in an inevitable direction for on-demand companies.
Careem, the Dubai-based competitor of Uber, Didi Chuxing, and Ola, among others, is profiled by Bloomberg Businessweek. Of note: Careem, currently worth $1.2 billion, is active in 80 cities across 13 countries. Four out of five Saudi Arabian women have used the service, which is training female drivers in the country. The story does a good job of exposing the difficulties of social transformation in the Arab World.
Ford takes Chariot to London.Engadget reports on the expansion of the carmaker’s first on-demand van service to the U.K. Focusing on South London, which is less well served by the Tube, with fares for daily rides between $3.41 and $2.27 after an initial two-week free offer.
Allygator Shuttle, a Berlin on-demand van service, has launched. Smart Cities World describes the service as a partnership between door2door and the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automil-Club, the German auto club and driver services company. The trial will consist of 25 vans running on Fridays and Saturdays only.
Speaking of auto clubs, Jrop wants to obsolete the monthly membership in favor of on-demand tow and roadside repair services. TechStartups.com has a summary. We think
Another flavor of robot. They are already wandering the sidewalk in many cities, and delivery robots are evolving into specialized breeds that will take to the streets. Robomart has a concept design for a fruit-and-vegetable delivery service that brings the produce department to the consumer’s door. Robomart’s concept is a problematic model for two reasons: 1.) It depends on the customer being at home and willing to walk to a van, rain or shine, to select their produce. On-demand services will not monopolize the customer’s time like this. 2.) The produce robot will suffer from the same problem consumers identify at the store, a lack of selection if the van has been picked over by previous customers. Optimizing routes to provide stock refreshment during a day will be challenging.
Crypto your tip? Finally, WIRED’s Zohar Lazar asks why Kudos, a blockchain-based system created by “Uber for buses” company Skedaddle to replace traditional tipping, makes any sense. With so many newly minted crypto billionaires, the solution to tipping isn’t to create a new currency to solve the problem, because the billionaires have a troubling habit of taking their cut first.