Uber Eats turns to grocery deliveries to fill pandemic-shaped hole in its business

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Uber Eats is launching a series of partnerships with supermarkets, convenience stores, and other businesses to offer home deliveries of essential items, Reuters reports. In France, the company is partnering with supermarket chain Carrefour to offer deliveries from 15 of its Paris stores. The Financial Times reports that it’s also working with Galp in Spain to deliver items from 25 petrol station convenience stores, and in Brazil it’s offering deliveries from local pharmacies, pet shops, and convenience stores.

This isn’t an entirely new initiative from Uber, which TechCrunch notes trialled similar partnerships in Australia and the UK last year, but it’s fast-tracking the plans as other areas of its business suffer as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Uber is facing a huge drop in demand for its existing services, as people cut down on non-essential travel and many restaurants are forced to close. The Financial Times notes that Uber CEO Dara Khasrowshahi recently said the company was looking for “alternative use cases” for the company’s pool of drivers.

In Paris, Uber is promising to deliver groceries from Carrefour in as little as 30 minutes. Customers can place orders through its app or over the phone. The service is not meant to compete with traditional supermarket delivery services, but instead will offer a smaller selection of essential food items as well as hygiene and cleaning products. In Paris, the service is due to launch on April 6th, and delivery fees will be waived throughout the rest of the month. As well as its partnership with Uber Eats, Carrefour has also partnered with Spanish start-up Glovo.

It’s already possible to order grocery items in some locations using Uber Eats. But there are large disparities in what you can get in different areas since the service tends to be offered from independent local stores. Partnerships with larger chains like Carrefour would create a more uniform offering.

Uber Eats isn’t the only food delivery service that’s expanding into groceries. In the UK, Reuters notes that Deliveroo is offering to deliver essential grocery items, and has also announced a partnership with Marks & Spencer convenience stores and Co-op supermarkets.

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