The #8meals app from Habits of Waste helps people cut back on meaty meals to save the planet

Earth Day may have come and gone, but with apps like #8meals from the non-profit Habits of Waste, anyone can try and do their part to help reduce deforestation and rising greenhouse gas emissions by cutting meat out of their diets for just 8 meals a week.

The app, which was created by Habits of Waste founder Sheila Morovati along with the development shop Digital Pomegranate, gives users a way to schedule which meals of theirs will be meatless and offers recipe suggestions for what to eat to help them stick to their goals.

For Morovati, the #8meals app is only the latest in a series of initiatives that are meant to cut down on waste and consumption. Morovati’s journey to environmental advocacy began with a program to redistribute used crayons from restaurants to schools in the Southern California region.

That program, called Crayon Collection, has redirected over 20 million crayons from landfills, but Morovati’s non-profit push to reduce waste didn’t end there.

The Habits of Waste organization also launched the #cutoutcutlery campaign, which convinced Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash to change their default settings to make customers opt-in to receive plastic cutlery. It’s a way to reduce the nearly 40 billion plastic utensils that are thrown away each year, according to the Habits of Waste website.

“We decided to create a whole new arm which is cut out cutlery and eight meals. Trying to shift societal mindset is my goal,” said Morovati. 

Meanwhile, the number of meat replacements available to consumers continues to expand. Everyone from Post Cereal to Anheuser Busch is trying to make a play for replacements to proteins sourced from animals. That’s not to mention the billions raised by companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat to sell replacements direct to consumers.

Going meatless, even for a few meals a week, can make a huge difference for planetary health (and human health). That’s because animal agriculture is responsible for more than 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide — and it contributes to deforestation.

“I always think about this fake person that I’ve created in my mind and I call him Mr. Joe Barbecue,” Morovati said during a YouTube interview with self-described superfood guru, Darien Olien, earlier this year. “How can we get Mr. Joe Barbecue to be on board? Is it possible to tell him to go fully vegan? I don’t think so. Not yet. But I think if we introduce it with eight meals a week, maybe even Mr. Joe Barbecue will be willing to go there and understand it and try it and open up the door a crack to invite people in who may not be willing to do this.”

#cutlery, #doordash, #earth-day, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #grubhub, #postmates, #tc, #uber-eats, #websites

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Google spinoff Cartken and REEF Technologies launch Miami’s first delivery robots

Self-driving and robotics startup Cartken has partnered with REEF Technologies, a startup that operates parking lots and neighborhood hubs, to bring self-driving delivery robots to the streets of downtown Miami.

With this announcement, Cartken officially comes out of stealth mode. The company, founded by ex-Google engineers and colleagues behind the unrequited Bookbot, was formed to develop market-ready tech in self-driving, AI-powered robotics and delivery operations in 2019, but the team has kept operations under wraps until now. This is Cartken’s first large deployment of self-driving robots on sidewalks.

After a few test months, the REEF-branded electric-powered robots are now delivering dinner orders from REEF’s network of delivery-only kitchens to people located within a 3/4-mile radius in downtown Miami. The robots, which are insulated and thus can preserve the heat of a plate of spaghetti or other hot food, are pre-stationed at designated logistics hubs and dispatched with orders for delivery as the food is prepared.

“We want to show how future-forward Miami can be,” Matt Lindenberger, REEF’s chief technology officer, told TechCrunch. “This is a great chance to show off the capabilities of the tech. The combination of us having a big presence in Miami, the fact that there are a lot of challenges around congestion as Covid subsides, still shows a really good environment where we can show how this tech can work.”

Lindenberg said Miami is a great place to start, but it’s just the beginning, with potential for the Cartken robots to be used for REEF’s other last-mile delivery businesses. Currently, only two restaurant delivery robots are operating in Miami, but Lindenberger said the company is planning to expand further into the city and outward into Fort Lauderdale, as well as other large metros the company operates in, such as Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles and eventually New York.

Lindenberger is hoping the presence of robots in the streets can act as a “force multiplier” allowing them to scale while maintaining quality of service in a cost-effective way.

“We’re seeing an explosion in deliveries right now in a post-pandemic world and we foresee that to continue, so these types of no-contact, zero-emission automation techniques are really critical,” he said.

Cartken’s robots are powered by a combination of machine learning and rules-based programming to react to every situation that could occur, even if that just means safely stopping and asking for help, Christian Bersch, CEO of Cartken, told TechCrunch. REEF would have supervisors on site to remotely control the robot if needed, a caveat that was included in the 2017 legislation that allowed for the operation of self-driving delivery robots in Florida.

“The technology at the end of the day is very similar to that of a self-driving car,” said Bersch. “The robot is seeing the environment, planning around obstacles like pedestrians or lampposts. If there’s an unknown situation, someone can help the robot out safely because it can stop on a dime. But it’s important to also have that level of autonomy on the robot because it can react in a split second, faster than anybody remotely could, if something happens like someone jumps in front of it.”

REEF marks specific operating areas on the map for the robots and Cartken tweaks the configuration for the city, accounting for specific situations a robot might need to deal with, so that when the robots are given a delivery address, they can make moves and operate like any other delivery driver. Only this driver has an LTE connection and is constantly updating its location so REEF can integrate it into its fleet management capabilities.

Image Credits: REEF/Cartken

Eventually, Lindenberger said, they’re hoping to be able to offer the option for customers to choose robot delivery on the major food delivery platforms REEF works with like Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash or GrubHub. Customers would receive a text when the robot arrives so they could go outside and meet it. However, the tech is not quite there yet.

Currently the robots only make it street-level, and then the food is passed off to a human who delivers it directly to the door, which is a service that most customers prefer. Navigating into an apartment complex and to a customer’s unit is difficult for a robot to manage just yet, and many customers aren’t quite ready to interact directly with a robot. 

“It’s an interim step, but this was a path for us to move forward quickly with the technology without having any other boundaries,” said Lindenberger. “Like with any new tech, you want to take it in steps. So a super important step which we’ve now taken and works very well is the ability to dispatch robots within a certain radius and know that they’re going to arrive there. That in and of itself is a huge step and it allows us to learn what kind of challenges you have in terms of that very last step. Then we can begin to work with Cartken to solve that last piece. It’s a big step just being able to do this automation.”

#artificial-intelligence, #atlanta, #automotive, #cartken, #ceo, #chief-technology-officer, #dallas, #doordash, #driver, #fleet-management, #florida, #food, #google, #grubhub, #los-angeles, #machine-learning, #miami, #new-york, #postmates, #reef-technologies, #robot, #robotics, #self-driving-car, #tc, #transportation

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Grubhub gig workers react angrily to change in tipping policy

Grubhub gig workers react angrily to change in tipping policy

Enlarge (credit: Brett_Hondow | Getty Images)

California-based workers for food delivery app Grubhub have reacted angrily to changes to the platform which they say discourage tipping, saying they would wipe out the supposed benefits of new gig worker rules in the state.

Last month, California passed Proposition 22, which though falling far short of the benefits received by full-time employees, gave gig workers a limited number.

Weeks after the ruling, Grubhub reduced its default tip amount from about 20 percent to zero, adding a suggestion to “leave an optional tip on top of driver benefits.”

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#gig-economy, #grubhub, #policy, #workers-rights

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Spying a pivot to ghost kitchens, Softbank’s second Vision Fund pours $120 million into Ordermark

“We’re building a decentralized ghost kitchen,” is a sentence that could launch a thousand investor calls, and Alex Canter, the chief executive officer behind Ordermark, knows it.

The 29 year-old CEO has, indeed, built a decentralized ghost kitchen — and managed to convince Softbank’s latest Vision Fund to invest in a $120 million round for that the company announced today.

“We have uncovered an opportunity to help drive more orders into restaurants through this offering we have called Nextbite,” Canter said. “Nextbite is a portfolio of delivery-only restaurant brands that exist only on UberEats, DoorDash, and Postmates.”

After hearing about Nextbite, Softbank actually didn’t take much convincing.

Investors from the latest Vision Fund first reached out to Canter shortly after the company announced its last round of funding in 2019. Canter had just begun experimenting with Nextbite at the time, but now the business is driving a huge chunk of the company’s revenues and could account for a large percentage of the company’s total business in the coming year.

“We believe Ordermark’s leading technology platform and innovative virtual restaurant concepts are transforming the restaurant industry,” said Jeff Housenbold, Managing Partner at SoftBank Investment Advisers, in a statement. “Alex and the Ordermark team have a deep understanding of the challenges that independent restaurants face. We are excited to support their mission to help independent restaurants optimize online ordering and generate incremental revenue from under-utilized kitchens.”

It’s an interesting pivot for a company that began as a centralized hub for restaurants to manage all of the online delivery orders coming in through various delivery services like GrubHub, Postmates and Uber Eats .

Canter is no stranger to the restaurant business. His family owns one of Los Angeles’ most famous delicatessens, the eponymous Canters, and Ordermark apocryphally started as a way to manage the restaurant’s own back-of-the-house chaos caused by a profusion of delivery service orders.

Now, instead of becoming the proprietor of one restaurant brand, Canter is running 15 of them. Unlike Cloud Kitchens, Kitchen United or Reef, Ordermark isn’t building or operating new kitchens. Instead, the company relies on the unused kitchen capacity of restaurants that the company has vetted to act as its quasi-franchisees.

Ordermark logos for some of the company’s delivery-only restaurant concepts. Image Credit: Ordermark

While most of the restaurant concepts have been developed internally, Ordermark isn’t above the occasional celebrity sponsorship. Its Nextbite service has partnered with Wiz Khalifa on a delivery-only restaurant called HotBox by Wiz, featuring “stoner-friendly munchies”.

The first brand Canter launched was The Grilled Cheese Society, which took advantage of unused kitchens at places like a Los Angeles nightclub and mom-and-pop restaurants across the East Coast to build out a footprint that now covers 100 locations nationwide.

It’s perhaps the growth of the HotBox brand that shows what kind of growth Nextbite could promote. Since the brand’s launch in early October, it has grown to a footprint that will reach 50 cities by the end of the month, according to Canter.

In some ways, Nextbite couldn’t exist without Ordermark’s delivery aggregation technology. “The way that Ordermark’s technology is designed, not only can we aggregate online orders into the device, but we can aggregate multiple brands into the device.”

For restaurants that sign up to be fulfillment partners for the Nextbite brands, there are few additional upfront costs and a fair bit of upside, according to Canter. Restaurants are making 30% margin on every order they take for one of Ordermark’s brands, Canter said.

To become a part of Nextbite’s network of restaurants the business has to be vetted by Ordermark. The company takes cues on what kinds of restaurants are performing well in different regions and develops a menu that is suited to match those trends. For instance, Nextbite recently launched a hot chicken sandwich brand after seeing the item rise in popularity on different digital delivery services.

Restaurants are chosen that can match the menu style of the delivery-only brand that Ordermark’s Nextbite business creates.

Behind those menus is Guy Simsiman, a Denver-based chef who is in charge of developing new menus for the company.

“We’re building things that we know can scale and we do a lot of upfront vetting to find the right types of fulfillment partners,” said Canter. “When a restaurant signs up to become a fulfillment partner, we’re vetting them and training them on what they need to do to … We’re guiding them to become fulfillment partners for these concepts. There’s a whole bunch of training that happens. Then there’s secret shopping and review monitoring to monitor quality.”

While Nextbite may be the future of Ordermark’s business, its overall health looks solid. The company is about to cross $1 billion worth of orders processed through its system.

“We are laser focused right now on helping our restaurants survive COVID and the best way we can do that is by doubling down on the incremental revenues of the Nextbite business,” said Canter when asked where the company’s emphasis would be going forward.

Nextbite is something we’ve been developing for a while now. We took it to market at the end of last year prior to COVID. When COVID kicked in every restaurant in America needed to be more creative. People were looking for alternative ways to supplement the loss in foot traffic,” he said. Nextbite provided an answer.

#america, #business, #ceo, #chef, #chief-executive-officer, #companies, #covid, #delivery-services, #denver, #doordash, #east-coast, #grubhub, #jeff-housenbold, #laser, #los-angeles, #managing-partner, #menu, #online-food-ordering, #ordermark, #postmates, #restaurant, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats, #vision-fund, #websites, #wiz

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Fringe pitches a monthly stipend for app purchases and subscriptions as the newest employee benefit

Fringe is a new company pitching employers on a service offering lifestyle benefits for their employees in addition to, or instead of, more traditional benefits packages.

“We didn’t think it made sense that employees need to be sick, disabled, dead or 65+ to benefit from their benefits,” wrote Fringe chief executive Jordan Peace, in an email.

The Richmond, Virginia-based company was founded by five college friends from Virginia Tech rounded up by Peace and Jason Murray, who serves as the company’s head of Strategy and Finance. The two men previously owned a financial planning firm called Greenhouse Money, which worked with small businesses to set up benefits packages and retirement accounts.

During that time, the two men had a revelation… employees at these small and medium-sized businesses didn’t just want retirement or healthcare benefits, they wanted perks that were more applicable to their day-to-day lives. Because Murray and Peace couldn’t find a company that offered a flexible benefits package on things like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu subscriptions, Uber rides, Grubhub orders or Instacart deliveries, they built one themselves.

As they grew their business they brought in college friends, including Isaiah Goodall as the vice president of partnerships, Chris Luhrman as the vice president of operations and Andrew Dunlap as the head of product.

Peace and Murray first launched the business in 2018 and now count over 100 delivery services, exercise apps, cleaning services and other apps of convenience among their offerings.

For their part, employers pay $5 per employee covered per month and set up a monthly stipend (that may or may not be subtracted from a total benefits package) of somewhere between $50 and $200 that employees can spend on subscription services.

It’s a pitch to employers that Peace says is especially compelling as office culture changes in the wake of massive office closures and work-from-home orders from major U.S. companies as a response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

“In-office perks and even most ‘off-site’ perks (gyms, massage spas, etc.) are all null and void,” wrote Peace. “Even post-COVID, it’s highly likely that many of these aspects of office culture will bear less significance with many CEOs vowing to allow ‘WFH forever.’ This means companies need a way to package their office culture and ship them home. Fringe is perfectly positioned for this and determined to be the first name that comes to mind to provide a solution.”

Peace sees this as the next step in the evolution of benefits offerings for employees. He traces its legacy to the development of private health insurance and 401k retirement plans. “After another 40 years lifestyle benefits are the newest breakthrough — and like its predecessors, will be almost universally adopted in the next 5 years,” Peace wrote.

#amazon, #employee-benefits, #fringe, #grubhub, #health-insurance, #instacart, #startups, #tc, #uber, #virginia-tech

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Uber plans to gobble up delivery rival Postmates in $2.6 billion deal

Bicycle couriers making deliveries to Uber Eats customers in São Paulo in April, 2019 (a year before the novel coronavirus pandemic).

Enlarge / Bicycle couriers making deliveries to Uber Eats customers in São Paulo in April, 2019 (a year before the novel coronavirus pandemic). (credit: Joel Carillet | Getty Images)

Uber is trying again to acquire a food delivery rival after it wiped out on its last attempt earlier this year. The company said today it plans chow down on Postmates in a deal valued at $2.6 billion.

The companies announced the all-stock transaction this morning. Uber said the companies’ businesses are “highly complementary,” as they have different customer bases in different parts of the country. Uber in its press release praised Postmates as “an early pioneer of ‘delivery-as-a-service,'” a truly spectacular buzzword jam for our era.

What Uber probably wants, though, is for someone to deliver it a profit. The company lost $2.9 billion in the first quarter of this year (period ending March 31), after losing $1.1 billion each in Q4 and Q3 and a whopping $5 billion in the quarter before that.

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#antitrust, #biz-it, #competition, #delivery, #grubhub, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #policy, #postmates, #uber

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After losing Grubhub, Uber reportedly hails Postmates

Uber has reportedly made an offer to buy food delivery service Postmates, according to The New York Times.

According to the Times, the talks are still ongoing and the deal could fall through.

For those that have been paying attention to Uber, this appetite is not new, albeit consistent. A little over a month ago, the ride-hailing company was reportedly pursuing an acquisition of Grubhub,  another food delivery company. Grubhub was ultimately acquired by Just Eat Takeaway in a $7.3 billion deal, but only after the deal with Uber fell through over a variety of concerns.

Food delivery market has set to benefit largely from the COVID-19 pandemic, as stores remain shuttered or switch operations to takeout only. Latest earnings from the public ride-hailing company show that its ride-hailing business is slowing while its food delivery service is growing like hell. Gross bookings for Uber Eats last quarter were $4.68 billion.

So even though Uber still loses a ton of money ($2.94 billion including all costs), its Uber Eats growth is staggering. And the green shoots might be fueling some of this interest in other competitors.

Sources close to Uber told TechCrunch that regulatory concerns scuttled the company’s bid for GrubHub, but its chief executive later said the JustEat deal was better.

If regulatory concerns were an issue, Postmates may make a better fit.

With a valuation of $2.4 billion, Postmates is significantly smaller than Grubhub. And while the company filed to go public nearly 16 months ago, it held off eventually citing “choppy market” conditions.

So if Uber Eats and Postmates combined, the result would still be smaller than Doordash’s market hold, but would be competitive nonetheless. DoorDash, last valued at $13 billion, confidentially filed for an IPO nearly four months ago. 

Also, Postmates delivers more than just food.

If the merger goes through, the food delivery race would get refueled in an interesting way: Uber Eats and Postmates versus Grubhub and Takeaway versus DoorDash .

Postmates declined to comment on rumors or speculation. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #deal, #doordash, #food-delivery, #fundings-exits, #grubhub, #postmates, #startups, #tc, #uber, #uber-eats

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Daily Crunch: Uber might lose out on acquiring Grubhub

Uber stocks tumble after reports that it will lose out on acquiring Grubhub, Reddit appoints a new board member and Republican senators question the legal protections of large social media platforms.

Here’s your Daily Crunch for June 10, 2020.

1. Uber shares tumble 5% as reports indicate it will lose Grubhub deal to European rival

Reports this morning indicate that Uber, the American ride-hailing giant with a global footprint, will lose out on its attempt to buy Grubhub, an American food ordering and delivery service.

Instead, Grubhub might be acquired by European-rival Just Eat Takeaway. The Wall Street Journal broke the difficult news for Uber. The company’s shares are off nearly 5% today after the news, while Lyft, its local rival in ride-hailing, is off a more modest 2.5%.

2. Reddit names YC’s Michael Seibel to board, following co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s exit

In his resignation letter, co-founder Alexis Ohanian asked Reddit to replace his role with a black board member. Today, the site announced the appointment of Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel to its board. Seibel became YC’s first black partner in 2014, before ascending to chief executive.

3. Republican senators ask FCC to examine Section 230, following Trump order

A recent executive order from the Trump administration seeks to strip away key protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Yesterday, four Republican senators sent an open letter to the FCC, urging chairman Ajit Pai to examine the “special status” afforded to social media sites under the statute.

4. NS8 raises $123M led by Lightspeed for its suite of online fraud prevention tools

NS8 is a Las Vegas-based startup that provides tools to prevent fraud within e-commerce marketplaces, online merchants, payments gateways and ticketing services.

5. What to consider before publishing your diversity memo

Over the past few weeks, several venture capital firms have published different variations of the same pledge: we’ll do a better job supporting the Black community. My colleague Natasha Mascarenhas argues that there’s no need to applaud firms for taking long overdue steps to treat others equally. What is more important is how we’re going to hold these firms accountable going forward, after a history of inaction. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

6. Nikola Motor to open pre-orders for fuel cell pickup truck to compete with Ford, Tesla

Nikola Motor Company, the Arizona startup that made its debut as a publicly traded company June 4, will open reservations later this month for a hydrogen fuel cell electric pickup truck that was designed to compete with the Ford F-150.

7. IBM Cloud suffers prolonged outage

The IBM Cloud suffered a major outage yesterday. And with that, multiple services that are hosted on the platform are also down, including everybody’s favorite tech news aggregator, Techmeme.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

#daily-crunch, #grubhub, #tc, #uber

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Uber shares tumble 5% as reports indicate it will lose Grubhub deal to European rival

Reports this morning indicate that Uber, the American ride-hailing giant with a global footprint, will lose out on its attempt to buy Grubhub, an American food ordering and delivery service. Uber competes with Grubhub domestically with its Uber Eats service; a tie-up between the two could have given Uber suffocating market share in the United States, and thus improved economics.

Losing Grubhub to European-rival Just Eat Takeaway — the Wall Street Journal broke the news — is difficult news for Uber. Its shares are off nearly 5% today after the news while Lyft, its local rival in ride-hailing, is off a more modest 2.5%.

Reports last week named two European companies as potential acquirers of the American company; the story of Uber losing out to a different company in its pursuit of Grubhub intensified this morning when CNBC reported that the ride-hailing company could drop its bid over anti-trust concerns.

Investors are less than enthused that Uber failed to close the Grubhub deal, if reports hold up.

The why is simple enough: Without Grubhub, Uber Eats is merely another money-losing food delivery service that has a long maturity cycle ahead of it before it helps lower its parent company’s unprofitability. Ride-hailing, Uber’s traditional bread-and-butter, and source of positive contribution margin, is currently recovering from pandemic-driven lows.

But without Grubhub and a greater ability to squeeze money from restaurants that more market might have afforded Uber, its near-term economics may prove slow to improve. Ride-hailing is coming back, but is still generating revenues lower than from year-ago totals.

With Uber Eats putting up around $100 million in negative adjusted EBITDA each month, food delivery is little help to the unprofitable megacorp.

More when the deal is announced today, if it is as currently anticipated.

#earnings, #fundings-exits, #grubhub, #startups, #takeaway, #uber

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Uber could lose its Grubhub deal to Just Eat or Delivery Hero

According to CNBC there are two suitors rivaling Uber for purchase of U.S. food delivery company Grubhub: Just Eat Takeaway (the union of Just Eat and Takeaway) and Delivery Hero.

Both are European companies perhaps looking for a major entry to the United States market. Just Eat Takeaway is based in the U.K. and Holland, while Delivery Hero is based in Germany. They are both lavishly funded, with Just Eat Takeaway having raised around $1 billion (a combined tally for both companies that now make up the conjoined entity), according to Crunchbase data, and Delivery Hero flush with billions in historical capital from a number of sources.

What price they might pay wasn’t clear on this Friday afternoon, but public market investors are optimistic on what the companies might pay. Shares of Grubhub shot higher on news that other suitors were in the mix; its shares are currently trading up around 7% on the day.

A bidding war could help Grubhub drive a higher price for itself. According to various reports, Uber and Grubhub are struggling to find the right price for the smaller company’s assets. Uber Eats is a domestic competitor to Grubhub, making the tie-up attractive to the larger company from a competitive perspective; if Uber can eliminate one of its chief rivals while absorbing its market share, then perhaps the company best known for its ride-hailing business would be able to extract more cash from food delivery, lessening its regular losses from the activity.

How much more restaurants can give up to food aggregators and delivery players, if any, isn’t clear.

But what’s plain today is that the battle for ownership of the U.S. food delivery market is far from over. If one of the European players does absorb Grubhub, it could set up a newly energized, multi-way struggle to bring food from where it’s made to the homes of consumers. Uber Eats against Grubhub and its new owner against Postmates against DoorDash: That would be an expensive dust-up.

So expensive, in fact, that perhaps Uber will cough up more than it wanted to for the asset to avoid having to fight a newly energized Grubhub, powered by cash from its new, European parent company.

#delivery-hero, #grubhub, #logistics, #postmates, #tc, #uber

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Silicon Valley can fight systemic racism by supporting Black-owned businesses

As the United States sees its second week of large-scale protests against police brutality, it’s painfully clear that the country’s racial divide requires significant short- and long-term action. But most of these calls for change gloss over the role Silicon Valley can and should play in mending the racial divide.

Right now, activists are rightfully urging the public to take two crucial steps: vote out state and local government leaders and support Black-owned businesses. Both steps are necessary, but the importance of the latter has been largely overshadowed. Leaders can enact policy change, but much of the structural racial disparity in the U.S. is economic. Black workers are vastly overrepresented in low-paying agricultural, domestic and service jobs.

They’re also far more likely to be unemployed (in normal economic circumstances, and especially during the pandemic). A Stanford University study found that only 1% of Black-owned businesses receive loans in their first year. That’s seven times lower than the percentage for white businesses.

Put simply, enacting new laws and overturning old ones won’t suddenly reverse decades of biased investment decisions. That’s why all over social media, there are grassroots pushes to shop Black. Apps like WeBuyBlack and eatOkra collate businesses and restaurants into one centralized database, while organizations like Bank Black encourage investment in Black-owned funds or Black-owned businesses.

But what happens when the hashtags stop trending, the protests stop attracting crowds, and the Twitter feeds return to celebrity gossip and reality show reactions? Many organizers worry that, after the media cycle of the George Floyd protests expire, widespread interest in fixing systemic racism will go away too. Apps may be helpful in propping up Black businesses, but they rely on customers fundamentally changing their purchasing and consumption habits. Perhaps the perfect storm of COVID-19 and Mr. Floyd’s death will result in a wide-scale transformation of consumer behavior. But that’s not a given, and even if it were, it wouldn’t be enough.

To systematically fix underinvestment in Black businesses, we need big tech to step up. Now.

In particular, while there’s been a lot of recent talk about “algorithmic bias” (preventing algorithms on sites like Facebook or Google from implicitly discriminating on the basis of race), there hasn’t been enough talk about proactively demanding “algorithmic equality.” What if, for instance, tech companies didn’t just focus on erasing the entrenched bias in their systems, but actually reprogrammed algos to elevate Black businesses, Black investors and Black voices?

This shift could involve deliberately increasing the proportion of Black-created products or restaurants that make it onto the landing pages of sites like Amazon and Grubhub. Less dramatically, it could tweak SEO language to better accommodate racial and regional differences among users. The algorithmic structures behind updates like Panda could be repurposed to systematically encourage the consumption of Black-created content, allowing Black voices and Black businesses to get proportional purchase in the American consumer diet.

There’s also no compelling reason to believe that these changes would harm user experience. A recent Brookings study found that minority-owned businesses are rated just as highly on Yelp as white-owned businesses. However, these minority-owned businesses grow more slowly and gain less traction than their white-owned counterparts — resulting in an annual loss of $3.9 billion across all Black businesses. To help resolve this glaring (and needless) inequality, Yelp could modify its algorithms to amplify high-performing Black-owned businesses. This could significantly increase the annual income of quality Black entrepreneurs, while also increasing the likelihood in overall investment in Black small businesses.

At the very least, giving Black business a short-term algorithmic advantage in take-out and delivery services could help stem the massive economic breach caused by the coronavirus and could help save the 40% of minority-owned businesses that have shut down because of the pandemic.

Nothing can undo the losses of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery or the countless other Black Americans who unjustly died as a result of this country’s broken system. What we can do is demand accountability and action, both from our political leaders and from the Silicon Valley CEOs who structure e-commerce.

With thoughtful, data-based modifications, online platforms can give Black entrepreneurs, creators and voices the opportunity to compete — an equality that has been denied for far too long.

#algorithmic-bias, #amazon, #column, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #discrimination, #diversity, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #facebook, #food, #google, #grubhub, #opinion, #twitter, #yelp

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Everyone’s ordering delivery, but apps aren’t making money

Two Uber Eats delivery courier wait outside Mc Donalds fast food in Ghent, Belgium on May 14, 2020. As Belgium takes steps in easing Restrictions, Restaurant and cafe are not allowed to open to customers only fast food and take away is allowed. restaurants and restaurants may not reopen before June 8. (Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Two Uber Eats delivery courier wait outside Mc Donalds fast food in Ghent, Belgium on May 14, 2020. As Belgium takes steps in easing Restrictions, Restaurant and cafe are not allowed to open to customers only fast food and take away is allowed. restaurants and restaurants may not reopen before June 8. (Photo by Jonathan Raa/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

When Luke Edwards opened OH Pizza & Brew in 2014, the Columbus, Ohio, restaurateur thought delivery apps could help his business. His chicken wings and specialty pizzas—the most popular and appropriately named “Bypass,” topped with pepperoni, sausage, ham, salami, bacon, and extra cheese—needed an audience. And he says working with apps such as DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Canada’s SkipTheDishes helped him build a loyal following, allowing him to open two more OH Pizza & Brews, with another location on the way.

But by January 2019, Edwards had had enough. For one, he didn’t think the services were helping his bottom line. “Even though we were bringing in more money, after paying out the commission rates, we were seeing a decrease in net profits,” he says. The drivers were inconsistent, he reports, and sometimes lacked equipment like insulated food bags to keep deliveries warm. Edwards also found it harder to get in touch with customer service reps for the apps, who would sometimes refund customers at the eatery’s expense for deliveries he believed had gone well.

“Quickly, I realized [the apps] were good at the search and optimization thing,” he adds. “They were terrible at delivery.” Today, OH Pizza & Brew pays its own contracted drivers to deliver, which Edwards believes saves him money.

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#delivery, #doordash, #grubhub, #policy, #uber-eats

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Democratic senators flag Uber’s possible Grubhub deal over antitrust concerns

In a new letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, a group of Democrats in the Senate urge regulators to “closely monitor the negotiations” between Uber and Grubhub and to initiate an antitrust investigation if a rumored deal between the two companies comes to pass.

In a letter signed by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Patrick Leahy, Richard Blumenthal and Cory Booker, the lawmakers caution that a merger between Uber’s food delivery service Uber Eats and its competitor Grubhub would lead to “serious competition issues” and a market dominated by only two remaining players. They also called attention to the unique leverage food delivery companies have over gig workers and restaurants right now as those services see explosive growth from new users seeking to get food safely during the crisis.

“As our country grapples with the many health and safety challenges brought about by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many consumers have turned to food delivery apps to order meals online, and many restaurants have come to rely on the business they get through these apps to stay afloat,” the group of lawmakers wrote.

Following a Wall Street Journal report on the potential merger last week, House antitrust subcommittee chair Rep. David Cicilline called it “a new low in pandemic profiteering.”

 

#antitrust, #government, #grubhub, #tc, #uber

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Uber’s attempt to buy Grubhub comes under fire

Young man on a bike with Uber Eats logo delivering food in Bucharest, Romania, 2020

Enlarge / Young man on a bike with Uber Eats logo delivering food in Bucharest, Romania, 2020 (credit: Getty Images)

An attempt by Uber to build the largest meal delivery company in the US by buying its rival Grubhub has immediately come under fire from lawmakers, city officials, and antitrust experts.

Uber and Grubhub, currently the second and third-largest US meal delivery companies by market share behind DoorDash, are in talks over a tie-up as the coronavirus crisis accelerates consumer demand for delivery services, according to two people familiar with the situation. Grubhub’s share price rose 29 percent on Tuesday, giving it a market value of $5.5 billion.

David Cicilline, a congressman who chairs the House antitrust subcommittee investigating the tech sector, said Uber’s takeover attempt “marks a new low in pandemic profiteering”.

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#grubhub, #policy, #uber

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A Grubhub-Uber tie-up would remake the food delivery landscape

Earlier today news broke that Uber is pursuing an acquisition of Grubhub. The global ride-hailing giant is worth a multiple of the American food delivery service, making the tie-up financially feasible, provided that a palatable price can be found for both parties.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news; you can read TechCrunch’s coverage of the deal here.

The deal could shake up the large, if generally unprofitable American food delivery market, a space contested by Uber’s Uber Eats service, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates. The combination could create the largest food delivery entity in terms of sales, changing leadership in its market and perhaps reducing competition.

Let’s unpack the deal in terms of its cost, why Uber has to pay in stock, how large a combined Uber Eats/Grubhub entity would be compared to its competition and why adjusted EBITDA helps us understand how this acquisition could give Uber’s bottom line a shot in the arm.

An all-stock purchase?

In normal times, this deal would likely be a mix of cash and stock. However, in 2020, with Uber’s market position being what it is, it’s likely that this would be an all-equity transaction. Why? Because Uber needs to conserve cash at nearly all costs. Its only historically profitable division (ride-hailing generates heavily adjusted profits) is in the tank, with ride volumes down as far as 80% in April, compared to its year-ago period.

#doordash, #extra-crunch, #food, #food-delivery, #grubhub, #logistics, #ma, #market-analysis, #tc, #transportation, #uber, #uber-eats

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Uber is reportedly in talks to buy GrubHub

Uber is in talks to buy GrubHub in an all-stock deal, The Wall Street Journal reports. This comes a few months after reports emerged that GrubHub was looking to sell Uber, DoorDash and others.

According to the report, Uber approached GrubHub earlier this year with an offer, but the two companies are still in talks.

In Q1, Uber Eats experienced major growth with gross bookings of $4.68 billion, up 52% from that same quarter one year ago.

TechCrunch is awaiting comment from Uber and GrubHub. Developing…

#grubhub, #tc, #uber

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