In the past, people grew wheat for three months, milled it into flour and baked bread. Now, Elm City residents can tap their smartphones’ touch screens and receive food in less than an hour.
New Haven is one of just 30 cities in the country with UberEATS, Uber Technologies’ standalone mobile application for food delivery. It began offering its services in New Haven this August with the participation of 40 restaurants, including Tarry Lodge, The Juice Box and Alpha Delta Pizza. Other online food ordering services, such as Yelp Eat24 and Grubhub — which came to New Haven in 2009 and 2011, respectively — have been in Elm City for several years but primarily serve as online interfaces meant to facilitate ordering. Instead, UberEATS provides actual food deliverers to all restaurants that use the app.
The new industry still shows growing pains, and no front-runner has yet emerged as the favorite, according to conversations with six restaurant staff members.
“UberEATS connects people to their favorite restaurants with a touch of a button,” UberEATS General Manager Casey Verkamp ’10 said.
At Tarry Lodge, anywhere from 10 to 40 orders are made through UberEATS per night, according to general manager Howard Pelkey. In preparation for the mobile app’s launch in New Haven, UberEATS supplied Tarry Lodge with an iPad to manage orders, take-out bags and any other necessary items for UberEATS deliveries, Pelkey said.
Rubamba owner Ernesto Garcia said UberEATS requested a 30 percent share of sales for its delivery services, so Rubamba declined the partnership.
But since UberEATS asked Tarry Lodge to participate in the introductory phase of UberEATS in New Haven, Tarry Lodge is not contracted for the 30 percent rate, Pelkey said. Pelkey, as well as other establishment owners currently in partnership with UberEATS, declined to comment on their contracted share percentage.
While the transition has been smooth for some businesses, others have experienced some difficulties with the development of the newborn app.
“The beginning was definitely a rocky road,” Box 63 office manager Kerri Simko said.
Some days, Box 63 did not receive a single order through UberEATS, according to Simko, while in other days, they would receive around ten orders. Box 63 also uses an iPad provided by UberEATS to manage orders, and once an order is placed through the app, employees have 12 minutes to accept the order. After the 12 minutes, the order is automatically declined, which happens at Box 63 on occasion if employees are unable to hear the notification over the restaurant’s background noise, Simko said.
Simko added that setting up the menu on UberEATS also proved difficult. Originally, Box 63 added all of their available items to the UberEATS menu but has since removed some items like certain hamburgers, fries and flatbread pizzas that customers complained decreased in quality after lengthy deliveries, Simko said. According to Verkamp, the average delivery time for UberEATS in New Haven is around 30 minutes.
Though the experience has improved in past weeks, Simko said that often times after finalizing its contract with UberEATS, customer service was difficult to contact: phone calls went to out-of-country service centers or voicemail boxes were not set up.
Others, however, expressed satisfaction with UberEATS’ customer service. The Juice Box co-owner Sammy Chamino, for example, said customer service is excellent for both the businesses and customers using UberEATS.
UberEATs is even converting some establishments that previously used other online food ordering services. Alpha Delta Pizza Owner Cengiztopel Kilic plans to eliminate his restaurant’s usage of Grubhub and Yelp Eat24. Kilic called these services a “robbery” since they do not bring Alpha Delta new customers and “cheat” Alpha Delta out of money it would have received if the order was placed via phone call. He said as soon as Alpha Delta develops its own online ordering system, the restaurant will drop all online food ordering services except for UberEATS: the difference between the services, he said, is that UberEATS can bring in new customers who use the app and discover his restaurant there.
But for Giulio’s Pizza Restaurant in North Haven, more orders are placed through Grubhub than any other online food ordering service, according to the owner Salvatore Gagliardi. The pizzeria’s UberEATS orders focus solely on New Haven deliveries, given that the app is not available in North Haven. With Grubhub and Yelp Eat24, Giulio’s supplies its own food deliverers and the app charges 20 percent of the menu price for their service.
Although UberEATS does deliver pizzas, Chamino pointed out that the app’s drivers are not traditional pizza delivery people — deliverers at UberEATS can also spend their time driving for uberX, so they can make the most of their time as well as make more money than by just working for one service, Verkamp said.
Uber Technologies Inc. was founded in 2009 as UberCab.