Since Covid-19 hit the hospo industry hard, the tide has been turning against Uber Eats. Jean Teng looks at why people are increasingly anti the app, and checks out some (hopefully) less problematic alternatives for sating level three hunger.
Even before Covid-19, we thought food delivery was pretty damn great. For the time-poor among us, it was an easy way to fuel up: tap through an app a few times, send the order away, and muck around for the 40 minutes or so it took before a bag showed up at your doorstep. Magic. Convenience. Everything life should be like in 2020. And then, when the pandemic hit, delivery apps turned from mere convenience into one of the only ways you could safely access your local takeaways.
Naturally, a lot of eyes turned to Uber Eats, our most popular food delivery service. There were concerns about the California-based company well before Covid-19 hit – unless you’re a big company with bargaining power, it takes around 30-35% commission from a restaurant’s earnings, making it completely unsustainable for many small businesses – and this became even more galling during a time when opening up dine-in service hasn’t been an option.
We expected Uber to cut its commission rates to give relief to a struggling hospitality industry, but it didn’t. Backlash ensued: New Zealand’s surrogate aunt, Hilary Barry, declared she was deleting the app, while our leader, Jacinda Ardern, urged us to lend support to local businesses that do their own deliveries. It was only today, May 11, the day the government is to decide if New Zealand would move to alert level two, that Uber Eats announced it would be capping commission at 30%. Additionally, it introduced a new option for restaurants to use their own delivery drivers, with a commission rate of 8% that will increase to 16% on August 1.
Cecilia Robinson, founder of My Food Bag, announced she was deleting Uber Eats via her website – and not just for its commission rates. “They’ve taken their head office offshore, their profits go offshore and, ultimately, they are taking away money from companies who are paying tax and spending their profits in New Zealand,” she told The Spinoff. Social media plays a big part in influencing consumer decisions, says Robinson, so influencers have a responsibility to scrutinise companies before accepting promotional brand deals. “Most influencers in New Zealand have become successful because we’re supporting them – they are likely to have a huge following made up of small, local businesses.”
As everyday customers, we have some of that responsibility too. According to Robinson, we should ask ourselves, “Does this company benefit the New Zealand economy? Does it have a local team and presence?” For the most part, social media has rallied behind our local businesses, reposting takeaways with #supportlocalnz and pledging to cease using Uber Eats at all. Well, at least, that’s what they appear to say on Instagram.
After we gave some Uber Eats competitors a go, it became clear that Uber still has an edge over anything else available to us. It’s by far the easiest app to navigate, has the largest number of businesses signed up and the best live driver tracking system, and is generally the fastest to deliver. With the highest volume of orders by far, it’s also a valuable source of income to some New Zealanders, whether as their main job or a hustle on the side. This doesn’t necessarily absolve the fact it charges New Zealand businesses that crazy 30-35% commission rate, but it makes the company a hard one to beat; sadly, convenience often trumps everything else, especially when you’re contending with a hungry family.
We’re now heading towards alert level two, which means dining out is on the cards again. But with new social distancing rules – tables must be at least a metre apart – takeaways are likely to remain our Friday-night-treat go-to for the time being. Many restaurants will probably cease doing their own deliveries, too, as resources get shuffled back into the main dining room, so external delivery apps like Uber Eats are still a necessary middle man. But what if you decide you don’t want to support Uber Eats? Are there any options out there that take less than 35% from our local restaurants?
The obvious answer is to call ahead and pick the order up yourself. But like we said: magic. Convenience. Everything life should be like in 2020. We love delivery, and some of us (like me) don’t even own a car.
We’ve tested some of the apps out for you, weighing up pros and cons and letting you know their commission rate where we can.
Delivery via bright-pink e-scooters has arrived. Flamingo is a Kiwi-founded and operated e-scooter hire company, running in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, which launched its food delivery arm as we entered level three.
Pros: By keeping cars off the road, it’s helping the environment and our clogged roads. Plus, you know, novelty factor.
Cons: Using e-scooters means some inherent structural drawbacks, especially for any city that’s spread out (ie Auckland). They can’t really operate in the ‘burbs, or deliver further than short distances.
Arrived: Quickly and efficiently – around 40 minutes after ordering (Ponsonby restaurant, Grey Lynn delivery address).
Commission rate: 25% per transaction, with some special case-by-case arrangements.
Delivery fee: $5 flat rate.
If you live or work in Auckland’s city centre, you’ll have seen Easi delivery workers clad in bright yellow tracksuits, cycling around with packs on their bikes. Easi is another food delivery app (pick-up as well) based in Australia. In New Zealand, it services Auckland only.
Pros: Easi’s app is fairly user-friendly and intuitive; this is the one that feels most like Uber Eats in interface, though it’s not as clean. There are tons of coupons and free delivery promotions to draw you in, and it does do a fairly good job at keeping you up-to-date on what’s happening: you know exactly when a driver accepts the job and when the order gets picked up.
Cons: The driver tracking system is less than ideal – the distances will jump straight from 1600m to 15m, so don’t expect anything live.
Arrived: 50 minutes from order placed.
Commission rate: Between 15-25% per transaction.
Delivery fee: Starting price of $5.49 then $1.5 per km.
Buy@Home is a food delivery app that started in Australia and caters mostly for a Chinese market, though not exclusively. It also sells retail products, and currently operates in Auckland and Christchurch.
Pros: You’ll find a lot of eateries available that aren’t on more mainstream apps, and it allows users to access restaurants they might have found intimidating to dine in at. There is free delivery for some eateries “in your zone” and regular promotions for discounted meals.
Cons: Navigating Buy@Home as an English-language speaker, even with your settings toggled to English, requires heavy guesswork and a familiarity with delivery apps that first-time users may not adapt well to. Push notifications are sent in Chinese, and there is no driver tracking system, though it does tell you when the meal is finished and on the way.
Arrived: 1 hour from order placed, 10 minutes later than estimated.
Commission rate: 18% per transaction (information received from a restaurant owner, rates may vary).
Delivery fee: It varies and we haven’t been able to get hold of Buy@Home to confirm a fee structure, but the lowest appears to be around $4, going much higher depending on distance.
Other delivery apps
DELIVEREASY – Wellington-based app that operates in 12 New Zealand cities (if you count Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt as cities), excluding Auckland, though it intends to expand into Auckland and Christchurch soon.
Commission rate: 20% per transaction.
GOGO DELIVERY – Auckland-based app that operates only in Auckland, and is particularly good for the North Shore.
Commission rate: 25%+GST on commission, special merchant rate 23%+GST, Restaurant Association member rates: 20%+GST.
MENULOG – MenuLog is headquartered in Australia and owned by a British parent company, operating up and down the country. Delivery is done by the restaurant itself.
Commission rate: 14% per transaction, 7% until 1 June.
HUNGRYPANDA – A Chinese-language-only app serving Chinese communities, founded in the UK.
Commission rate: 18%+GST per transaction (information received from a restaurant owner, rates may vary).
Regulr is a Wellington-founded app that allows you to pre-order coffee and food from your local cafe, which you pay for via your credit card for contactless pick-up.
Pros: After a slight wobble on the first day of alert level three, Regulr has been simple to use, easily allowing you to customise your orders. It also has a tab system, meaning you can let orders build up before paying them all at once at the end of the week, or you can pay straight away.
Cons: It’s pretty new to the market so there’s not a ton of cafes on there, and living out on Auckland’s North Shore means there’s only a couple of places near me. It’s also a bit prone to fizzing out on you.
Commission rate: No fee per transaction, but a monthly $30+GST rate; payment company Stripe takes 2.9% + 0.30c per transaction.
Another local initiative, Foodprint’s original mission was to help tackle food waste by offering a platform for restaurants to offer discounted meals at the end of the day. It has since opened its service for all eateries to host their menus – discounted or not – for click-and-collect.
Pros: The app looks good and runs well too, which is really all you want. I like how it shows you exactly how many are left of each meal, and that it can notify you when a nearby eatery has added discounted items. You pay by credit card within the app.
Cons: It’s mostly cafes and lunch places on there because of the app’s original intention, so not a good option for dinner, and is currently available only in Auckland and Dunedin.
Commission rate: 12.5% per transaction.
Another New Zealand venture, Eat Local NZ was started up by Tim McLeod, initially for pick-up only. It’s nationwide and intends to expand to delivery in the future, so watch this space.
Pros: It’s a web-based app, so no need for another square to clutter up your phone, and it lets you know when your order is ready to be picked up (which Regulr doesn’t do).
Cons: Same deal – it’s new, so not a whole lot of variety to choose from, so it’s hard to see the added value from, say, calling up the restaurant itself and preventing any commission rate being charged. But that could change in due time.
Commission rate: 5% + 0.30c per transaction.
Other pick-up-only apps
Tuckr – New, not-yet-released not-for-profit app launched by Apolinar Ventures, a New Zealand company, for online restaurant orders, which will operate firstly in Auckland before being rolled out to other cities.
Commission rate: 2.5% per transaction
Zomato – Usually known for being a crowd-sourced restaurant review platform, Zomato has launched a takeaway option which is commission-free for two months from April.
Some other apps helping eateries operate during level three are listed on the Restaurant Association of New Zealand website.