UberEats: The gig economy delivers restaurant food to your front door

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Editor's note: UberEats is an advertiser on the flog.

Restaurants have been delivering food for eons, even before civilization entered the Internet Age.

But it was the internet that made it more plausible.

But now an even more recent development than the internet is changing the meal delivery game again: the gig economy.

And gig giant Uber is leading the pack with its UberEats service.

I’m an unabashed fan of Uber and I’ve used it all over the world. In fact, it’s especially useful in countries where I don’t speak the language. You type in your destination using the Uber app so the driver knows where you’re going when he or she picks you up, so there’s no need for translating or negotiating routes. Even better, payment is done through the app so there’s no fumbling for money and trying to figure out an appropriate tip — you can do that after you leave the car.

The same principles are applied in UberEats, with some coopting of previous home delivery pioneers.

UberEats is a separate app — or you can use the online website — but if you’re already an Uber user your account information can be transferred to the new app.

Once it knows your home information (or wherever it is that you want to have food delivered), you’ll be presented with an array of restaurants that make their menus available to the UberEats service. And there are many options — if this were still the days when the menus were printed out into a booklet, it would be the size of a phone book. You remember phone books, don’t you?

To test out the UberEats service, I downloaded the app and started perusing. You can order food ASAP or schedule it for later, which is a nice option, and your choices will vary depending on whether the restaurant is open at the time. I also like that you can use the UberEats website. 

There are tons of dining options for my delivery area in downtown Orlando. A daunting number, actually, so it’s nice that you can filter the options by choosing a cuisine category.

Also nice: You have the option to order food as soon as possible or schedule it for later in the day.

I found the menu for Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen in College Park. It had been a while since I’d last visited there, so I decided to order from its menu.

The menu on the app and the website is neat and readable, and the prices listed on UberEats are the same as what you’d pay if you were dining in the restaurant.

What’s different, cost-wise, is that UberEats attaches fees to the order, most notably a delivery fee. This is not extraordinary and shouldn’t be unexpected — you’re paying someone to fetch your food for you.

The delivery fee can change based on a number of factors, especially your proximity to the restaurant. In my case, Outpost is a pretty good drive from my downtown Orlando neighborhood, so my fee was $6.99. Another restaurant, just about a mile away from where I live, had a delivery fee of 49 cents.

The delivery fee might also be affected by the availability of nearby drivers. There may also be a service fee of 15 percent of the order’s total. And if your order is less than $10, you may get hit with a small-order fee of $2. You can avoid that one by ordering more than $10, which is pretty easy to do.

As I am writing this article at the moment, the delivery fee for food from Outpost has gone from $9.45 to $10.49; a note on the app says, “There aren’t enough couriers nearby, so the booking fee is higher right now.” (After I finished this article, the delivery fee had dropped to $3.49.)

The app will also tell you the estimated time it will take for your food to be delivered. And it also offers options for food you can get from other restaurants in under 25 minutes if you’re really hungry and don’t want to wait — or get dressed and go out yourself.

ubereats mapFrom the Outpost menu, I ordered the Classic Meatloaf and the Stroganoff O’Beef. With each item you select, you can modify the order or leave a note for the kitchen. For example, if you were to order a sandwich, you might have different bread options, or have to select a side dish, or maybe you want to add bacon. It’s all clearly laid out.

Once you’ve made all of your choices, you click to confirm it and the UberEats app gets to work. From here, the experience is similar to that of ordering an Uber car to pick you up. You can watch the status of the order, and when the courier picks it up, you can follow the little icon of the car on the map as it makes its way to you, with an estimated time of arrival on the bottom of the map. You’ll also have the name of the driver and the type of car he or she is driving so you can keep an eye out.

I ordered my food in advance and requested that it be delivered between 6 and 6:30 that evening. Despite ordering a couple of hours ahead of time, and with a half hour of wiggle room, the order arrived at 6:38 p.m. — I was alerted during the processing time that the order would be slightly delayed.

My courier, James, brought the food to the door and quickly turned away. Just as with the ride hailing app, no money exchanges hands with the delivery person, it's charged to your credit card. I called after him to ask if the process was similar to using Uber in that I could leave a tip after the fact. He said he didn’t know.

In fact I could, and did. I was also able to rate the service, just like with an Uber ride.

As for the food, it was hot, nicely packaged and not leaking. I’ll save the review of the food for another time.

Overall I was pleased with the UberEats experience and I can see using it again, especially for times when I’m feeling under the weather and don’t want to go out. (Do they have a chicken soup filter?)

UberEats is offering free delivery on your first order for readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide. Just enter the coupon code heyeats6j3hd at checkout.