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East Coast delivery battle between Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, DoorDash heats up in socially distant culture

A vendor prepares food for an Uber Eats worker in Mexico City in March. Food delivery apps are fighting for East Coast market share. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
A vendor prepares food for an Uber Eats worker in Mexico City in March. Food delivery apps are fighting for East Coast market share. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

Restaurant delivery apps Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes and DoorDash are fighting for market share during the COVID-19 pandemic as hard-hit eateries turn to takeout and delivery to stay afloat.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be the people who can grow the fastest and get the most people on their app that are going to win,” says Peter Mombourquette, chair of Mount Saint Vincent University’s department of business and tourism and hospitality management.

“It’s a horse race to see who can get the biggest market share and then keep it once all of this is over.”

DoorDash CEO and Co-founder Tony Xu. - Linkedin
DoorDash CEO and Co-founder Tony Xu. - Linkedin

In March, DoorDash CEO Tony Xu began to woo restaurants to partner with the app.

Xu put a temporary, 30-day stop on the charging of commissions to independent restaurants in Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico and Australia. He followed that in mid-April with a cut of 50 per cent to the usual commission demanded from those restaurants until the end of May.

Restaurants already using the app were also told they could benefit from $20 million in DoorDash merchant marketing programs.

Xu tried to allay fears of transmission of COVID-19 through the company’s food delivery services by providing drivers with face masks and hand sanitizer and encouraging them to use a no-contact protocol.

DoorDash refused to provide figures for its Atlantic Canadian operations but the company does claim to offer the widest selection of restaurants through its app and to have partnered with 90 per cent of the top 100 American and Canadian restaurants that offer delivery.

Slicing up the delivery pie

The perfect Pad Thai.⠀

Posted by Hamachi Kita Sushi & Asian Flare on Thursday, March 14, 2019

Still, sushi restaurant manager Navin Mathew says DoorDash is a distant third among the apps for food delivery in Halifax.

At Hamachi Kita in Halifax’s Hydrostone neighbourhood, DoorDash drivers might pick up four or five orders per day, compared with the 15 to 20 orders the restaurant delivers using each of Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes, says Mathew.

A spokesman for Uber Eats, who also declined to provide regional information for Atlantic Canada, would only divulge the app saw orders from small to medium-sized business grow by 40 per cent during its last quarter.

So far during the pandemic, Hamachi Kita has lost half its sales because of the closure of its dining room. Takeout and delivery orders, which usually make up only about 30 per cent of its sales, have been the only bright spot, jumping by 65 per cent, says Mathew.

The full extent of the damage being done to the restaurant industry cannot yet be assessed but experts paint a grim picture.

Michael Schaefer, head of consumer food research at Euromonitor International, said in a podcast Friday that as many as 40 per cent of full-service, sit-down restaurants in some markets may not survive the pandemic.

In downtown Halifax, McKelvie’s is among those eateries that have been temporarily shut. It’s been closed since mid-March.

General manager Lukas McIlvena says it’s too soon to know what the fallout of COVID-19 will be on full-service restaurants in Atlantic Canada.

“What I’m unsure of is the restrictions that will be put on us when we can reopen, how many patrons we will be able to put in the restaurant because of social distancing,” McIlvena says.

“Who knows what tourism will be like this summer?”

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