Uber Eats Launches New Program for Virtual Foodservice Ops

Small merchants and restaurants can access concepts curated and verified by delivery platform
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
uber eats
Uber Eats is debuting a new program that helps connect small businesses with vetted virtual restaurants, a move with potential implications for food retailers.

Virtual foodservice businesses are getting some very real support, thanks to Uber Eats' new Certified Virtual Restaurant Program. Following a rapid, pandemic-fueled acceleration in virtual restaurant deliveries, Uber Eats is introducing the program to boost efficiencies for food providers as well as consumers.

The initiative, created in tandem with partners Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC), Nextbite and Acelerate, will help merchants, particularly smaller and independent foodservice operations, leverage a pipeline of virtual restaurant concepts curated and vetted by Uber Eats. Its launch comes at a time when delivery programs have continued to shake out in the wake of still-evolving consumer behaviors across the omnichannel, something that’s evident in foodservice, foodservice-at-retail and retail operations alike.

[Read more: "Top Grocery Delivery Disruptors Divulge Their Secrets"]

"With the boom in virtual restaurants over the past several years, we've noticed a wide range of approaches to creating virtual restaurant brands," said John Mullenholz, Uber's head of virtual restaurants and dark kitchens for the United States and Canada. "We're excited about launching this program to connect the best virtual brand builders in the industry with small businesses across the country – and to bring the very best virtual brands to consumers' doorsteps."

There may be opportunities for collaborations with retailers that offer dining programs with foodservice partners. They, too, could tap into virtual concept creators’ deep bench of experts that provide branded offerings like MrBest Burger from VDC, Huevorito from Nextbite and Scratch Chicken from Acelerate.

This is the latest effort by Uber Eats to streamline processes and services. In early March, the company announced that it completely redesigned its Shop and Pay program for its couriers to better handle out-of-stock items. Uber Eats drivers shopping for groceries at retail stores can now access suggested substitutions that they can send to their customers. Additionally, Uber now allows its couriers to activate digital credit cards on their phone instead of having to use their physical payment card at checkout.

Uber Eats is making these and other improvements as demand for online deliveries from both restaurants and retailers remain an important part of the sales mix. A recent survey conducted by Bloomberg Second Measure shows that sales for major meal delivery services grew 9% from the previous year. Meanwhile, new research from Chicory shows that although the adoption of online grocery has slowed, activity is up, with 56% of survey respondents saying that they order groceries online more often than they did a year ago.

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