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What are The Best Times to Deliver for Uber Eats?

The best times to deliver for Uber Eats are when there are the most available delivery offers for the number of contractors logged into the app.

It's all about supply and demand.

The beauty of being an independent contractor for gig economy food delivery apps like Uber Eats is that you get to make your own decisions. No one can tell you when you can and can not get out on the road.

Unfortunately, if you choose the wrong times, you may not make so much.

How do you determine the best times to get out there? Let's talk about how to figure that out. We'll look at when it's good to deliver for Uber Eats and when it isn't so great. We'll discuss:

Why it's important to pick the best times to deliver

The bottom line is that you're trading your time for money. Uber Eats pays on a delivery-by-delivery basis. Every delivery takes time to complete.

There's no hourly pay. An Uber Eats delivery driver has no guarantees or minimum wage for the time spent delivering.

Your time is limited. That makes it valuable.

There are times when there just aren't many good orders out there. That can leave you sitting waiting for offers, and there are just better things to do with your time.

Uber may say it's busy out there, but you're still waiting and waiting between orders. That's usually because all the other drivers got the same notice from Uber, and now there are more drivers than there are orders.

If you're going to use up your time to deliver, the best thing you can do is find the times that allow you to make the most money for that time.

Six Important rules for when it's good to deliver for Uber Eats

Infographic of how to determine the best times to deliver for Uber Eats including knowing when there are fewer competing drivers, when Uber Eats is busy, when customers pay the most, understanding the vacuum principle and knowing your own needs and market.

The thing is, there's no one answer to when it's best to deliver. A great time for me to deliver in Denver may not be great for you wherever you are.

In fact, sometimes you can see real extremes within the same market.

We'll talk about good times to deliver. But before we do, I think it's more valuable to understand some basic rules. Those rules help you better understand the nuances within your area and make your own decisions.

1. The more UberEats needs drivers, the higher your earning potential.

There is an art to accepting and rejecting delivery offers from Uber. While you could take everything that comes your way, that's a great way to reduce how much you can make.

However, if you're too picky, you can wait too long between offers and limit your earnings even more.

The trick is to find that balance between identifying the best Uber Eats deliveries and not pricing yourself out of the market.

When the demand is high, either because Uber Eats is absolutely swamped or because there aren't enough drivers, the orders come in more rapidly. If you decline orders like a $2.50 ten-mile special, the following offer will come in almost immediately.

That means that the busier you are, the choosier you can be. You can get by with an incredibly low acceptance rate when you're getting several offers per minute. If there are long waits between offers, the cost of your lost time waiting on better orders can be greater than the benefit.

When you can be choosy, you can make more in the time you deliver and better limit the miles you have to drive. That can be huge when gas prices are out of control.

2. The number of drivers out there is as significant (maybe more) as how many busy Uber Eats is.

several delivery drivers waiting for delivery orders while one person holds up a bag of food.

Uber Eats can be extremely busy in your area. However, if they have too many drivers in your zone, you can find that your order frequency is much lower in peak times than in what usually are slower times.

At the same time, if the food delivery service isn't as busy but there aren't many drivers logged in, you might find the Uber driver app is chiming off the hook.

A lot of delivery drivers call this driver saturation. If there's more competition for orders, you may have longer waits between offers. As we mentioned above, you may have to be less selective. Ultimately, the ceiling for what you can make gets a lot lower.

Unfortunately, Uber Eats does not do anything to limit how many contractors are logged in at a given time or place. They don't have the kind of scheduling model that you see with Doordash or Grubhub. This makes saturation a more common problem.

3. Pick times when customers pay (and tip) more.

The busiest time may not always be better than slower periods if pay per delivery is lower.

Before the pandemic, dinner deliveries were more frequent than lunchtime. However, with many people working from home, the volume of lunchtime deliveries took off.

I've heard many people say that lunch has become a better time to deliver than the dinner rush. However, my experience has been that dinner was still better because the average Uber Eats payouts were better.

When customer tips are often based on the order amount, those higher-value Uber delivery orders will pay better.

This is why it's essential to understand when customers are getting paid. For example, new orders shot up after stimulus money was sent out. When people have money, they order in more frequently. If they have more disposable income, they often are more generous with their tips.

Pay attention to when and how people are spending in your market.

4. Understand the vacuum principle.

When Uber Eats offers better pricing in one part of town, and drivers flock into that area from others, it creates a vacuum of drivers in the places those drivers left behind. This is what I call the vacuum principle.

With Uber Eats, it happens a lot with surge pricing. With Doordash, it occurs with peak pay promotions.

Drivers who flock to the higher-paying zones often have to wait longer between offers. They're more likely to have long wait times at the local restaurants.

However, there aren't enough drivers in a neighboring zone to meet the demand. This means more offers per minute for drivers that do fill the vacuum. As a result, you can be more selective, often making a lot more money for your time in supposedly lower-paying areas than in the surge zones.

The vacuum principle illustrated by an Uber Eats surge map with a bright red busy zone offering large bonus payouts in one region. Over that map is a vacuum cleaner with an Uber Eats logo, with many delivery driver car icons being sucked into the vacuum cleaner, leaving other less busy zones empty.

The vacuum principle isn't just tied to surge incentives. Some drivers simply chase the hot spots thinking they'll make money, and you can just stay put in so-called slower areas and mop up due to the lack of competition for orders.

It also happens when other delivery platforms are offering large incentives. The thing to remember here is that a lot of drivers multi-app (work more than one app at a time).

If Grubhub or Doordash offers a large bonus in your market, that can draw drivers away from Uber Eats. For instance, if Doordash has a high peak pay bonus, that may draw couriers away from Uber Eats. It may be better at that time to stick with Uber Eats as you may get offers more frequently.

At the same time, when Uber Eats has significant surge pricing or other bonuses, they can draw a lot of drivers away from other delivery services. That might be the ideal time to fill the vacuum for those other companies or to work on multiple apps simultaneously.

5. Know your area as well as possible

Knowing the peak hours or busiest times for Uber Eats isn't nearly as valuable as knowing your own market.

Is your town made up mostly of lunch eaters, or do they order out for dinner more often? When do people tip the most (Rule 3)? Is your market made up more of college students or professionals?

When are things the busiest in your area (Rule 1)? What parts of town are saturated (Rules 2 and 4)?

What happens in Denver is very different than in downtown Chicago. And Chicago will be very different from some small town in Kentucky.

One thing that made a massive difference for me was when I started tracking deliveries in detail. I tracked every delivery order, including my profit per hour for each delivery. I could then use that information to determine which nights of the week, which time of day, and even what part of town was most profitable for me.

6. Pick the times that work best for you personally.

Start with your why. Why are you delivering for Uber Eats? Is it because you can set your own hours? Are you a student working around class schedules or a parent working this as a side hustle around your kids' activities?

Keep your reasons in perspective.

Suppose you chose to be a self-employed independent contractor because you can set your own schedule. However, you feel compelled to work different times based on what others think are the best hours. Are you defeating your purpose for Dashing in the first place?

Your best times to deliver will be different as a full-time Uber Eats driver than if you're doing this as a side hustle to make more money.

While it's valuable to find the times where you can make the most money possible for the time you put into it, don't sacrifice the things that are most important in order to do it.

What time of the day is the best for delivery?

As a general rule, you can expect to be busier between 11 and 2 for lunch and between 5 and 9 for dinner time. Some markets may vary slightly.

If folks in your area tend to eat later in the day, you might shift that back (or move it up if they tend to eat at earlier times).

In some areas, breakfast can be a great delivery time if there's less competition for orders. Other markets might be saturated with drivers at that time.

The best times and earnings potential depend as much on how many other couriers are out there as the actual time of day period.

I've talked to some drivers who feel that late nights are the best. While not the busiest hours for overall delivery, the fact that not many others want to deliver then means they can make some good money.

Another factor that's as important or more so when evaluating the time of day is when more high-paying orders are available. Things could be swamped for breakfast, but if all the breakfast orders are low-paying Mcdonald's deliveries or long waits at IHOP, that may not be so great.

There's a recurring theme developing here: There's no time that's universally the best option. Whether early morning hours, peak delivery times, or doing the night shift is a good idea or not varies so much based on where you are and what the conditions are like.

In other words, the important thing here is that understanding your market will help you know the best Uber Eats times.

Pay attention to the busier and slower days of the week.

Again, this is going to vary by market. Typically you will find more order activity on weekends, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Monday and Tuesday are generally the slowest days for local restaurants. In my experience, that's true for delivery as well. In fact, I almost always take Tuesdays off. That's often true of Mondays (except maybe during Monday Night Football).

I have to say, I get a kick out of being able to say I have Mondays off. That's the beauty of being self-employed.

Pay attention to slower and busier times of the year

July and August are often slower than a lot of months. I think there are several reasons for this. People are away from home more often. They stay home and cook out more often when the weather's good. There's more of a sense of getting out and about during the summer.

When you have a lot of people getting together for an outdoor cookout, those are people who are not ordering food from Uber Eats at that time.

If you're in a college town, students have gone home. My experience with college students is there are a lot of cheaper single meals that don't pay much. While I usually don't take those orders, other drivers do. While they're busy delivering to students, I can pick up the better deliveries.

But when the college kids are gone, more of us compete for fewer orders.

Added to the mix, those students may be out delivering themselves to make money, further saturating the market.

Historically, September tends to be the slowest month for restaurants. However, in my experience, that's not always been the case for deliveries. Students are back in their dorms, so that leads to an uptick.

My experience has been the start of sports seasons, especially football season, tends to drive a lot of deliveries. I think people order in more for delivery when watching football than most sports.

You will find that cold, rainy, or snowy weather often drives a lot of delivery orders. People don't go out as much and may be more likely to have food brought to them. In most markets, fall through spring are the busiest delivery times.

Pay attention to special events.

Major TV events can be a great time to deliver. Uber Eats customers are ordering food for delivery, and many other contractors are staying home to watch the event. That leaves more orders and less competition for you when you make yourself available on the app.

I mentioned football season earlier. Sundays are a great time to deliver here in Denver because people order in for watch parties, and many drivers stay home to watch the game.

Superbowl Sunday is the busiest delivery day of the year. Other major championships, TV awards nights (such as the Oscars and Grammy Awards), and finales for popular television series are also big nights for delivery.

A barbeque grill with several cuts of meat, vegetables and potatoes where people are grilling their food and thus not ordering in on Uber Eats.
Holidays can be hit or miss. Sometimes people order for delivery as they get together. Sometimes they're cooking out and no need for delivery.

Holidays are another big delivery draw. They're another double whammy because more people are ordering, and often fewer are delivering.

Grubhub send their restaurants a list of the nine busiest delivery days. Those days include:

  • Superbowl Sunday
  • Valentine's Day
  • Mother's Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Father's Day
  • Labor Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • New Year's Eve

These may or may not be the best days to deliver. Sometimes they're a great time to make some extra money because there are a lot of orders and not many competing contractors.

Other times, market saturation can be terrible because everyone and their dog seems to be out there.

One more potential issue on jam-packed nights is that driver support can be overwhelmed when order volume is heavy. If you get stuck waiting a half hour to get through to support, that can kill an otherwise great night.

Your results may vary.

That almost sounds like an investment commercial or something, doesn't it? But you know something? It IS an investment.

When is it best to deliver UberEats? Knowing the busy times, days, and seasons can help you. Understanding your own market is the best way to really figure it out.

In my Uber Eats delivery driver review, I said there were a lot of pros and cons delivering for them. One of the best things about them compared to other food delivery services is the flexibility and not worrying about schedules. You can deliver whenever you want.

However, because Uber Eats doesn't regulate the number of available contractors any particular time, driver saturation can be a bigger issue with them than with apps like Grubhub and Doordash.

Here's the deal: if you pay close enough attention and have the flexibility to work your drive schedule around the more profitable delivery times, that can make a tremendous difference in how much you earn.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

About the Author

Ron Walter made the move from business manager at a non-profit to full time gig economy delivery in 2018 to take advantage of the flexibility of self-employment. He applied his thirty years experience managing and owning small businesses to treat his independent contractor role as the business it is.

Realizing his experience could help other drivers, he founded EntreCourier.com to encourage delivery drivers to be the boss of their own gig economy business.

Ron has been quoted in several national outlets including Business Insider, the New York Times, CNN and Market Watch.