Uber Food Deliveries off to Good Start

The Washington Post  |  Updated: October 28, 2016 13:44 IST

Uber Food Deliveries off to Good Start
  • A food delivery service is run by Uber Japan
  • UberEATS links restaurants and customers via delivery people
  • UberEATS is available in parts of Tokyo's Shibuya and Minato wards
A food delivery service run by Uber Japan, the Japanese arm of the major U.S. car service company Uber Technologies Inc., is attracting people's attention.

UberEATS links restaurants and customers via third parties who serve as delivery people. If the service spreads, it will increase consumers' options for delivery service and create new ways of working.

However, there are also such hurdles as how to respond to delays in delivery, and other problems.

The service started in late September. Customers who register through its app can order food to be delivered from participating restaurants.

The service differs from established delivery arrangements in that food is transported by third parties who have undergone various checks, including their personal identification cards. Uber utilizes delivery people who are near the sites where food is to be sent.

UberEATS is currently available in parts of Tokyo's Shibuya and Minato wards, with about 150 restaurants participating.

I tried it out myself, ordering supper before returning home. While riding on a train bound for Shibuya Station, I chose dishes from a menu shown via the app and got a message saying "arrival in 40 minutes."

I went to a prearranged meeting place, where a man who said he was a 25-year-old regular employee in the hospitality industry, arrived by motorcycle almost exactly at the appointed time. The food was still warm.

One of the participating restaurants, Iwakamutsukari, sells "shabushabu-ju" boxed meals and other dishes through the service. Located in the Ebisu district in Shibuya Ward, it has received orders for up to about 50 dishes a day. Some UberEATS customers have posted about the restaurant on Facebook.
"The service will give us a chance to make our restaurant known," said owner Akira Uchiyama, 48.

UberEATS will likely bring about new working styles as well. Delivery person Misa Shinomiya, 44, said, "The job suits me, because it lets me work whenever I like."

Shinomiya receives ¥600 ($5.60 U.S.) to ¥800 per delivery and has earned about ¥70,000 in a week.

At the same time, however, the service is faced with a number of challenges. There have been delayed deliveries due to such problems as difficulty reading maps, and it requires skill to transport meals without upsetting the original arrangement of the dishes and not be late.

The question of who should be responsible for handling problems is reportedly decided on a case-by-case basis. If a delivery person gets into a traffic accident, they must pay their own expenses.

There are also concerns among customers about their personal information, as they do not want it to be shared with third-party delivery persons.

Uber Japan is paying delivery costs at the moment, but is expected to charge users of the service in the future.

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Whether customers will accept increased prices stemming from delivery charges is likely to be a key factor in the successful spread of the new service.

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