Today’s consumer is furiously blending the lines between technology, the internet, and foodservice. This in turn, has been changing the way people order food. People are growing accustomed to paying for a meal at a kiosk, or ordering delivery via tablet or phone. While in-person counter ordering and wait staff won’t totally disappear anytime soon, consumers now expect continued innovation in service options. In turn, both operators and other transportation and tech companies are scrambling to find the newest way to get food into the hands of customers quickly and efficiently.

Uber, the company best known for their taxi service, is leveraging their fleet of drivers to enter the foodservice delivery business. The company tested their “UberFRESH” platform in Santa Monica, Ca. from August 26th to September 5th during lunch time hours (11:30am to 2:30pm). Users chose one item (salads, a sub, and chicken soup were available for the test) from a select group of local eateries and for $12 (no additional delivery charge), Uber drivers brought the food (plus a free cookie) to the recipient. The only inconvenience to the customer is they met the driver at the street to pick up their order as drivers are not allowed to park or leave their car.

This is not the first time Uber has tested the waters with their taxi fleet. Over the last year, they have tested a household item delivery service, Uber Movers for moving services, and UberRUSH which was a New York City-based bike courier.

The current definition of service modes in restaurants is rapidly changing, thanks to advancements in technology. According to Mintel’s research, roughly one in 10 consumers agree that they prefer to use online ordering instead of talking to wait staff. More restaurants are answering the call and beefing up their online ordering offerings, as well as beginning to integrate their brand with smart phone apps and other technologically advanced companies. In the very near future, if not already, consumers will be able to order and receive food from virtually anywhere.

The popularity and versatility of Uber’s original taxi platform has allowed this brand to extend their reach into other markets, including foodservice. We expect to see other non-foodservice business models using their main resources and developing new ways to innovate restaurants and their service modes.

For current operators, looking toward the future of service modes in foodservice will help them stay competitive. With places like Jimmy John’s delivering sandwiches quickly and websites like GrubHub allowing customers to order food effortlessly, restaurants can continue this trend by developing apps and websites for easier ordering.

Katrina Fajardo joined Mintel’s Foodservice reports team with a background that includes data analysis, presentations to restaurant operators and food manufacturers, and consumer behavior tracking. She is now involved in researching and writing reports that cover the broad, evolving world of Foodservice, including commercial, non-commercial, and menu exploration. Her focus is to create insightful and actionable reports that deliver valuable takeaways for clients.

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