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How Have Doordash, Grubhub and Uber Eats Been as Companies Since the Pandemic Started?

If you've followed me closely, you know I can kinda geek out at times about just the talk about business models. How companies do things is fascinating to me. I've written at times about things like cloud kitchens, and my ideas for how you could change things up in the delivery industry.

I don't want this to sound wrong, I would never be a big fan of something like a pandemic, but that's been one thing that I've kind of enjoyed about this time. Watching businesses, seeing how they respond and adapt when Rona threw this huge curveball at them. I've been really impressed at how some have responded.

Some stores have gotten quite innovative. I talked about really kind of enjoying my experience getting something from Best Buy, how they were incredibly efficient in dealing with a situation where the city and state wouldn't let them open up their show room, but they could still do business. I've actually appreciated the way a lot of restaurants have retooled for delivery efficiency and have done it in a way that was safe for both themselves and for us as drivers.

How have Doordash, Grubhub, Postmates adapted to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic?
How have Doordash, Grubhub, Postmates adapted to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic?

How have the delivery platforms adapted to this whole thing?

I thought I'd talk about my thoughts about how this has gone for Grubhub, Doordash, and Uber Eats. Normally I'd throw Postmates into the discussion, but I'll be honest. I don't really know. To be a little more honest, I don't feel bad about not knowing. I have not delivered any Postmates for awhile and don't intend to for awhile.

I would love to hear from someone who does Postmates, and find out what your observations are. Have they improved anything? Have they regressed, gotten worse. I understand they completely stripped away any pretense of a minimum payout now. That's hearsay though – so someone please let me know, do you think they got better or did they get worse?

And here's the thing: This is all my observation. And a lot of opinion. There's a lot of strong opinion. Some of what I'm telling you is informed by already strong opinions one way or the other. A part of me wants to be objective here, and a part of me is done with objectivity because when there are issues that go unfixed, it's hard to be objective. But understand, this is MY evaluation of what I'm observing. I'd love to hear yours.

Where I felt they all stood late last year.

Towards the end of last year, Episode 47 was my delivery app throwdown where I tried to compare the four main delivery platforms. Each had their strengths and weaknesses. At the time, in my mind, Grubhub had a slight lead, Doordash close behind and Uber Eats very close in third. None of the three were overwhelming favorites.

Since then, I would say Uber Eats was the one definitely making the biggest move one way or the other. They rolled out a new pay model, and that part was horrible. I'm never a fan of moving away from transparency, which they did. The overall pay rate was slashed quite a bit as far as the delivery fees. But they also added a lot of features that actually made them more comparable to the other apps.

Right before all of this started happening, I was writing about what I was calling the Great Uber Eats challenge. I decided to dive in fully for a couple different weeks on Uber Eats, and the results were actually far better than I dreamed they would be.

But how would things go when the virus hit the fan? I thought I'd talk about my thoughts on what each has done lately.

Doordash: Totally unprepared for this.

One thing I will say in Doordash's favor: It seemed to me they were really the first to start getting serious about no-contact deliveries. Or maybe they were the first to at least act like they were getting serious. Pretty early on they stated they were going to make it a default setting. But I'm not sure they did that very well.

I will tell you that for awhile after it was supposedly the default setting, I was getting very few no-contact deliveries. To the point that, you know, I wasn't sure if they just didn't start doing it when they said, or they weren't making it clear on the app. And I've had some deliveries where I'm not sure the customer knew that it was supposed to be no contact. Have you had any like that? Where they just seemed confused. So I'm not sure that Doordash was doing the best job communicating to us as drivers AND to the customer.

Doordash was the first in my experience to offer PPE to drivers.

At least in my market, Doordash was way out ahead of Grubhub and Uber Eats when it came to providing masks, sanitizer etc for drivers.

It's not that they did it particularly well. Part of the problem is that Tony Xu and Doordash are such incredible spin machines, and they didn't lose time trumpeting the fact that they were taking care of drivers. Except, they weren't. Not like they were making it out to be. I wrote awhile back that Tony Xu lied to me, as a customer, about how he was taking care of drivers. They sent out a customer email that made it look like they were providing personal protective equipment when in fact they hadn't made it available yet in my market. In a way it was throwing us under the bus, because they told customers they were being proactive but if we show up without masks, it makes us look bad.

Now here's the thing. I understand that getting stuff to us wasn't easy. You gotta remember this was when getting sanitizer and masks was virtually impossible. It made sense that they had to roll it out and prioritize the areas they were sending stuff. I think it was impossible to get stuff out to everyone immediately. My beef is when they make it look like they were doing that.

Doordash was not ready for this

There are two major issues that have hit Doordash during all this. Crashes. You know, DoorCrash – it got worse. You didn't think it could get worse but it did. And lack of support.

Doordash relies heavily on a Phillipine call center for their customer and driver support.

Extremely heavily.

And when the Phillipines were locked down in response to the Pandemic, suddenly Doordash didn't have any support. I think all of these companies were impacted by this. In fact, when you rely on a support where everyone is crammed into a room, and then social distancing and stay at home hits worldwide, it's going to impact you. But it felt like Doordash was the least prepared and least able to pivot when that happened.

And then there's the app. The prevailing theory with the issues that are so constant is that they outgrew their app long ago due to the explosive growth. Whether it's bandwidth or processing ability or whatever it is with their servers, whatever they're doing, it was like there was way too much going on for what htey were ready. And then when things blew up with even more orders now, it just can't handle it. I don't know what this will mean when it all settles down. Is the lack of support availability and the inability to deliver frequently due to app crashes going to stick with peoples' memories?

Doordash has made one notable pivot in operations.

I'm still not sure if it's good or bad. Personally, I prefer it this way over how it was. Recently, Doordash more or less did away with scheduling. Until a couple weeks ago, only so many people could log into a delivery zone at one time. Once it was capped, you couldn't go available in that particular area. More recently, you can just dash now at any time.

That's got its good and its bad. Personally, I've always disliked the micro-zones that Doordash uses. Uber Eats and Grubhub have the whole Denver metro region as one delivery zone, and Doordash has it broken down into several smaller zones. If you had a delivery that took you out of the zone, that could create issues. And honestly, I'd rather be able to take a delivery close to where I dropped off than to haul back to where I was.

The flip side is, the previous set up kind of protected against over saturating the zone too much with drivers. This is where Doordash was definitely better than Postmates and Uber Eats, where it's just an absolute free for all. I don't know why the change – maybe it started with Top Dasher – where they made it so that if you achieved that top dasher status, you could then go available any time in any zone. Did it just work well enough that they opened it up to everyone? Or was it just that they were having too many issues covering orders because they were over-capping the zones? The problem with all these micro-zones is you have to not only be good at predicting the demand for your market, but you have to do it for every single zone. So overall, this is in my mind maybe their best move. I probably wouldn't like it as much if I were exclusive to Doordash.

Grubhub: Maybe the worst of the bunch.

Okay, I'll start off with some good feedback on Grubhub. I think operationally, they may be doing the best job of any of them. I haven't experienced, or heard of others experiencing, app issues to the extent that there have been with the others. My experience has been they did the best job pivoting with their support. I have had fewer issues getting support when it was needed. I think they've always had the most stable app and maybe better designed for the volume.

Grubhub's handling of this from a PR standpoint has been a cluster.

I honestly think Grubhub may be the most in trouble as far as how they fare after this is all over with.

It started with their proclamations that they were there for the restaurants. They had a lot of fanfare about how they were going to be taking care of restaurants and easing up on what they were charging. I was critical of Doordash earlier about how they weren't waiving fees like Grubhub was, only to find out that Grubhub wasn't actually waiving fees to customers. They were deferring them. In other words, the restaurants still had to pay the fees, they could just wait to do so. In still other words, restaurants would come out of this with a huge debt owed to Grubhub. And oh by the way, as a thank you for being put in debt, restaurants were obligated for a full year.

I don't know that Grubhub was doing anything different than they've always done, but maybe it was more that their practices were brought to light.

Their next stumble was a $10 off discount program. They pressured restaurants to participate in a $10 off promotion for orders over $30. Yet they still wanted restaurants to pay commission on the full amount. After getting push back on that, Grubhub then announced they'd send $250 to restaurants to cover costs. Of course, Grubhub trumpeted that as another way to aid restaurants. I heard one guy at a restaurant say it was a lot like a guy making a big deal about how nice he was because one night he didn't beat his wife. Not sure it's quite THAT extreme, but you can see where the guy was coming from.

And then the latest has been the invoices circulating on social media from Grubhub. The extreme one was the $1,000 in food in which the restaurant received $376. The rest was taken out in commissions and fees and promotions.

The bottom line is, Grubhub has taken Doordash's place as the poster child for bad press.

Grubhub's unkept promises to drivers.

I mentioned that Doordash made a recent pivot in how they do things. Grubhub sent out an email promising they were making positive changes as well.

The changes haven't happened. At least not in my market. Grubhub promised they would start dispatching once the order was ready and start dispatching the closest driver. So far it's been business as usual, and this past Friday morning, UDM and I talked about this on his Youtube channel. None of his viewers piped in that they had noticed any changes either.

Uber Eats: Positive Changes, Over Saturation

As I mentioned earlier, I had been writing about how things were improving with Uber Eats. But when the Pandemic was hitting, I have to say the first negative I saw was with Uber Eats. It wasn't anything that Uber Eats changed that was negative, but more an amplification of the one issue that right now is in my opinion the biggest drawback that there is with them.

I mentioned this when talking about the scheduling with Doordash. It's about the free for all. Anyone can log in at any time. There's no mechanism to keep from having too many drivers logged in, and you could definitely feel it.

I don't like that part about them, but I will also say that's probably more how it should be when using independent contractors. A company that uses contractors is not supposed to have control over the process, and I believe that using scheduling is pushing right against that line if not crossing it. Uber Eats is allowing full freedom in this market, which probably is how it should be. But when that means there's more drivers than there are orders, that can kind of stink. The thing is, when things were drying up for their drivers, it made sense for them to pivot to delivery.

I can't fault them really for that. I mean, this is one of those few opportunities that is still out there for people to make money when they've been laid off or lost their jobs or they're stuck at home. And I know a lot of people think that Uber should be holding the reigns back on that some, but personally I'm not sure they should.

Uber Eats has been quietly making improvements

Let's emphasize “quietly.” And I give them credit for that.

There's a huge contrast here with Grubhub. Grubhub is trumpeting everything they can trumpet. They are making a big deal about helping restaurants and drivers, when reality is they're not doing either.

And then I've seen these little things pop up on the app on Uber Eats. No notice, no fanfare, just…. suddenly things got better.

The evolution of the Uber Eats offer screen: Four screenshots of offers, each showing better information than the last.
The evolution of the Uber Eats Offer Screen

You can see in these screenshots the progression. As part of their change in the pay model, Uber Eats began showing a map of where the customer was. But the map was hard to read. Originally they displayed the name of the restaurant and the number of minutes to the restaurant (furthest left). Then, without fanfare, they changed it to overall minutes AND miles. The next change was to include cross streets near the customer location. Most recently, they changed the colors of the pickup and drop off icons on the map and put them against a lighter backdrop to make them more noticeable. And the thing is, there was no fanfare or boasting. They just improved.

And then there's this latest little gem. In my inbox in the Uber Eats app, there's always a notification that I received a tip. I ignore those. But then they disappeared for a couple weeks for me. Recently they popped up again. See if you notice something here:

Screenshot of uber eats tip notification with option to say thank you.
Screenshot of uber eats tip notification with option to say thank you.

Maybe it's been there longer than I thought but…. Send Thanks for Tip?


Seriously, that's brilliant. There are times I really wish I could somehow thank people. I wish there were a way to give my own message but completely understand why they wouldn't do that. But just to simply tap the button and say thank you?

No fanfare. Just improvement.

My final thoughts

In the end, I see Uber Eats and Grubhub being kind of at opposite ends of the spectrum. On one side, Grubhub does a lot of fanfare about the good things they're doing, when in fact they're either doing nothing or that the good thing they're doing is for themselves. On the other, Uber Eats doesn't say anything, they just make improvements.

And then in the middle there's Doordash, just bumbling along with their app crashes and nonexistant support.

I don't know that any of this means anything going forward. Maybe it's confirmation bias, I'm just seeing stuff that I always expected to see and blind to other things? It's always possible.

I like to think I'm open to things. I took a shot on doing more Postmates back in the day when everyone was saying you couldn't make money on them. In fact I had all but given up on Uber Eats, didn't deliver enough to even get a 1099 last year, and was very skeptical about the new changes they were making.

I really wonder if Uber Eats won't come out looking a lot better when all the dust settles on this. Here's the thing: the customers and the restaurants are noticing the bad press when it comes to how Grubhub has done things. I'm not sure that Grubhub has been that much worse than any of them and how they're acting. In fact I hear a lot of restaurant people saying just dump the whole lot. But I will say, it's Grubhub that's being noticed. Grubhub has maybe been better than the others operationally, but is that enough to make up for the bad press?

And how many times does Doordash have to go through crashes and support issues before customers say enough?

It's not that Uber as a company doesn't have issues. They have more than enough. Maybe in the end, they've just managed not to shoot themselves in the foot as much?

What is your experience?

Who's been better lately? Who has gotten worse? Leave a note in the comments and let us know what you've seen. Maybe you see it completely opposite – I'd love to hear it.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.