Opinion

Delivery Has Offered a Lifeline to Restaurants During COVID-19, but We Need to Do More

Few industries have been harder hit or more resilient during the pandemic than the restaurant industry. Restaurants of all sizes are working around the clock to serve customers in any way possible, and many are looking to new technology or delivery platforms for additional support. And now, it’s clear that despite the value provided by delivery platforms in moments like the current environment, independent restaurants need more help from the federal government to survive.

At Uber Eats, we are invested in the best possible experience for all stakeholders. For consumers, this has meant increased access to their favorite restaurants during the pandemic. And for couriers, we’ve worked hard to secure additional aid through the Paycheck Protection Program and provide personal protective equipment reimbursement for those who choose to keep earning on the Uber platform.

At this moment, though, the independent restaurants, diners, eateries and bars across the country need urgent relief. As the service sector is working to transform complex operations and meet changing demands, we’re honored to innovate alongside restaurant operators — reducing their need to stay on the cutting edge of market trends — to produce flexible service and reliable sales.

To better understand how third-party delivery can best support restaurants, Uber partnered with Technomic, an industry-leading market research firm, to survey more than 400 restaurants across the United States and Canada in June.

The findings were eye-opening, with many respondents noting the benefits of delivery platforms. Eighty-one percent of restaurants in the survey reported that they would have had to lay off staff members if not for third-party delivery. Even more, three-fourths of the restaurants in the survey noted they would have had to close if not for Uber Eats. While these findings are encouraging, they also illuminate the uncertainty of the restaurant industry at this moment — which is why we are working hard to increase revenues and expand customer bases for our restaurant partners and couriers.

Third-party delivery has played a significant role in helping to offset the steep decline in sales, especially as dine-in restrictions have been implemented and at-risk populations have fewer opportunities to order out. Over 70 percent of restaurant operators in the survey have seen third-party sales increase during the COVID-19 outbreak thus far — providing a level of reliability for both couriers and restaurant operators. Those partnering with Uber Eats reported an even greater impact than others, including a larger increase in sales — as much as 40 percent for some of Uber Eats’ partners.

Although delivery platforms have been key pillars of COVID-era dining, there’s more work to be done and more help to be offered. For Uber Eats, that means introducing leading safety features and policies to support restaurants and delivery drivers, new financial tools to manage cash flow and receipts, waived onboarding costs for new restaurants on the platform and zero service fees for pickup orders. We also introduced a first-of-its-kind feature for customers to donate directly to restaurants: To date, Uber Eats customers have contributed more than $17 million to local restaurants. As the crisis evolves, we continue to innovate and offer new product advancements built to support restaurants’ evolving needs during these times.

In many ways, the post-COVID economic recovery will be powered by small businesses like independent restaurants and eateries. Ensuring that these establishments have every tool they need to succeed will be critical. For delivery partners, this can mean providing a seamless ordering experience, without commissions, or expanding software tools to allow managers to access order flow and completion from a mobile device. For policymakers and other stakeholders, this hopefully means more direct aid for restaurants and bars.

We’re proud to support the RESTAURANTS Act, from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), which would create a $120 billion relief fund. These urgent measures should not be delayed.

Our favorite restaurants around the country have faced countless challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, and we’re honored to work alongside entrepreneurs and operators as they reinvent dining and takeout almost overnight. Delivery platforms can play a role in helping establishments recover, and the feeling is generally mutual. In fact, more than 9 in 10 of the restaurants surveyed said they want to continue working with third-party delivery services even after the coronavirus outbreak is over. As for Uber Eats, we’re committed to developing new tools and expanding opportunities for restaurants, eaters and couriers across the country, helping move forward in the economic recovery.

Danielle Burr is the head of federal affairs at Uber. 

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This op-ed has been updated with a new link describing Uber’s PPE reimbursement.

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