Today’s special: the restaurants putting Uber on the menu

Jun 29, 2016

Is eating in the new dining out? As Uber Eats comes to the UK, GDR’s Lamorna Byford looks at how restaurants are evolving to stay competitive.

Uber has launched its food delivery service, Uber Eats, in central London. The app delivers food from 120 restaurants that wouldn’t normally offer a delivery option. It will face competition from Deliveroo, whose fleet of 3,000 bicycle couriers are hard to miss on London’s streets, as well as Supper, the service that brings Michelin-starred food to your front door. With every taste and every price point accounted for, we can now eat dishes from our favourite restaurants without ever stepping foot in them again.

So should restaurants be concerned that this is actually what will happen? Will eating out now be abandoned in favour of gourmet food in front of Game of Thrones? I don’t think so. I see this more as an evolution, a complementary service alongside the restaurant offering, than a replacement. Rather obviously, visiting a restaurant is about more than the food. It’s about ambience and experience and a sense of occasion.

However, delivery does represent an opportunity for restaurateurs to break into a new and highly profitable area. We’ve reported on experimentation in this space over the last few months, with schemes like Meal Pass and apps like Arcade giving existing restaurants the chance to tap into the trend for on-demand dining. What we’re now seeing is restaurants going one step further and leveraging their reputations to allow them to set up delivery-only kitchens, with no dine-in option.

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David Chang, the restaurateur behind New York eateries Momofuku, launched a delivery-only kitchen, Ando, this month. Ando’s dishes have been engineered to travel well, ensuring they arrive tasting as good as they would fresh from the pan. In London, rotisserie chicken restaurant Clockjack has opened a similar delivery-only site. Co-founder, Gerry Goldberg explained: “We didn’t want to open a restaurant in the Square Mile because of the high property prices and we had heard that Deliveroo were making a huge amount of deliveries to corporate customers in the City. We thought we would follow that trend and enter the market with a delivery-only service for the City”.

High rental costs are a concern for many restaurants and adding a delivery aspect to their business is just one way of dealing with high overheads. New York start-up Spacious partners with evening-only restaurants to use their spaces as co-working space during the daytime. For $95 per month, far less than other co-working schemes like WeWork, members can access any of Spacious’ spaces, with restaurants taking a cut of the profits. Spacious co-founder, Preston Prezek, told GDR: “It’s really a win-win, a totally symbiotic relationship that we have with restaurants.”

Evening-only restaurants like DBGB Kitchen & Bar are now opening as co-working spaces during the afternoon

As these restaurants and start-ups demonstrate, delivery needn’t spell the death of dining out. Rather, adaptation and additional services should allow hospitality brands to both maintain their traditional space and expand into the on-demand marketplace.

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