When it rolled into Pittsburgh on May 3, UberEats became the latest player in the Pittsburgh food delivery scene.
“Pittsburgh has a nationally recognized food scene,” said Casey Verkamp, general manager for UberEats in Pennsylvania (the service launched in Philadelphia last year). “It's a city on the move and we couldn't wait to get here.”
Like its ride-hailing service, which launched in Pittsburgh in 2014, UberEats food delivery makes use of drivers in their own vehicles. The deliveries are subject to surge pricing, and there’s no way to tip drivers within the app.
UberEats was originally part of the main Uber app, but a separate app was spun off in 2015.
It’s now in 80 cities, and joins other national delivery services like Postmates, Grubhub, Eat24 and OrderUp and locals like Wheel Deliver and Happy Bellies in the Steel City, which seems to add a new restaurant every other week or so.
Megan Lindsey, owner of Lawrenceville-based Franktuary, said the company was one of the first to sign on with UberEats because they’ve tried other delivery services and haven’t quite found the ideal fit. Some services want to handle the entire transaction, which means little to no contact with customers. That can be problematic, she said, especially with concerns about food allergies or menu changes.
But with UberEats, the customer can be in touch with the restaurant and vice versa throughout the transaction.
OrderUp has been in Pittsburgh since March 2016, and serves more than 125 restaurants. A spokesman said the company considered the local market a good bet. “Pittsburgh has an underrated and emerging restaurant scene and many of the amazing local eateries on our platform hadn't offered delivery until now,” spokesman Nick Halliwell said in an email. The city's restaurant scene actually has received its share of accolades over the past several years; it was dubbed Zagat’s Top Food City of 2015.
Bloomfield-based food delivery service Happy Bellies, which has been around since 2013, has weathered the arrivals of the other out-of-market delivery companies and not suffered much decline in business overall, said co-founder owner Dean Tanner.
“We expect people will try them, but we have such a loyal customer base that we know if we continue to provide honest service people will stay with us,” Tanner said.
Happy Bellies gets new customers all the time who seek out a local alternative to the national chains, he added.
So why is Pittsburgh such a popular place for food delivery services?
Tanner thinks there are a few reasons.
“The main reason is Pittsburgh is easy to get around,” he said. “The main population isn’t downtown, but you can get to the neighborhoods where we deliver pretty quickly.”
Add to that a burgeoning restaurant scene, which includes a lot of eateries who can’t afford to hire delivery drivers, and the need is clear, Tanner added. But growing too big too fast can tax even the best-organized delivery company, he added. Establishing borders and not overpromising have been keys to Happy Bellies’ success thus far, Tanner said.
While UberEats says it already has 100 restaurants lined up on its platform, Happy Bellies has about 30. Yelp wouldn’t break down how many restaurants its Eat24 service has in Pittsburgh, but a spokesperson said the services is in 40,000 restaurants in more than 1,500 cities. It’s been here since 2011.
One key feature that UberEats offers its restaurant partners is its Restaurant Manager dashboard, which is designed to give restaurants metrics about delivery sales and customer feedback.
But Tanner says Happy Bellies isn’t overly worried about the latest competition.
“These out-of-town companies don’t always know what is going on, so for anyone to come in and say, ‘We’ll be the fastest,’ there's no way they can possibly know whether that will be true,” Tanner said.