Since starting up in the city, Uber Eats has been keen to establish themselves as a business that continually contributes to the community in Hong Kong. They’re also eager to get customers to log on to the app and have a look at the full breadth of restaurants they’ve curated; they find new users are often excited to find their local cha chaan teng is on there along with a host of both local and big-name restaurants.
Jodie Auster, Regional General Manager of Uber Eats for APAC, gives us a taste of the ethos at this rapidly expanding, on-demand food-delivery platform that aims to make eating well effortless for everyone, everywhere.
Aside from the obvious goal of getting their food out to their customers, what are some of the other synergies between delivery platforms and restaurants?
One is when you’re a small business in particular. Often you’re in it for the love of serving food to customers, and you don’t necessarily have the expertise or the desire to build a marketing engine yourself. So you’re reliant on foot traffic, and maybe you can get yourself on social media and do flyering, but to actually go to the effort of building an audience that can find and discover you on a regular basis is a huge lift if you’re a small business. So just the fact of being on a platform like Uber Eats gives you that sort of exposure with little to no effort. So that’s the first thing in terms of the ability to easily experiment.
If you want to offer discounts or put an insert into the menu, it’s really hard to experiment and iterate with that menu and with those discounts on a daily basis, because it’s expensive and it’s impractical. This is particularly easy with Uber Eats. We’ve got a product called “Restaurant offers now”, where a restaurant can actually set up their own deals in the system and easily apply dish-based and item-based discounts to users. You can change the pricing of that menu, change the discounts that you’re offering and in near real time get pretty strong feedback about what people want. The restaurant dashboard shows how many of each item have sold, what are the bestselling items, what does demand look like through the day and through the week. There is a lot of rich data that’s already in there.
But not all restaurants think to use us or know what to do with us when they find us, so I think there’s a huge opportunity to get people to start looking at that and start making changes based on the data that’s available to them. And all of a sudden they can experiment at a much faster cadence than you’ve been able to do offline.
Can you describe some of the other ways in which Uber Eats has been supporting the F&B industry?
There have been a couple of really fun events and promotions that we’ve hosted to drive awareness of the platform, restaurants on the platform and also about the future of food. Last year in July, Uber Eats hosted the first Future of Food Summit, and that was about engaging with the community across the APAC region. We had about 200 restaurant partners and about 50 opinion leaders, and we talked about future-proofing F&B ecosystems. We had some really big local and regional brands like Coca-Cola, Burger King and then a couple of big brands from Australia and India and Black Sheep Restaurants from Hong Kong.
In January this year, we ran a campaign called the “Feng Shui of Food”. We wanted to be part of a meaningful moment to people in Hong Kong as they welcomed the Lunar New Year in. So we worked with a famous feng shui master from Hong Kong to recommend foods that would be helpful for each zodiac sign, and we had 120 of our amazing restaurant partners serving dishes that would improve your body function based on your sign.
And we’ve been doing a lot of other events [like supporting the Foodie Forks awards] as we feel very passionately that in order for our business to succeed, the food and beverage industry and small businesses in Hong Kong need to succeed. So we’re always looking for opportunities to invest in that industry and in events and channels that really champion local food heroes.
How have Uber Eats products been evolving over the past year and has COVID-19 affected the rate of change?
Specifically in response to COVID-19, we had a few initiatives to support local businesses and delivery. We reduced our marketplace fee by five percentage points for independent restaurants for three months. We also shifted to daily payments to relieve some of the cash-flow burden for those small businesses, and we waived activation fees in new restaurants that were signing up to the platform. We continue to send in-app messages and emails to delivery partners and restaurants reminding them of basic safety steps that they could take.
How have your products been evolving over the past year?
I would say our plans have changed. We had a really interesting time more broadly where the transport side of the business almost came to a grinding halt because of the coronavirus, because people stopped moving. But the Eats side of the business really flourished during restrictions, because you know people really needed some sort of social and mental relief from cooking themselves. And there are a lot of circumstances where people don’t have easy access to food.
I think the relevance of online food to a brand has really come to the fore through the coronavirus, and the breadth of products and channels has accelerated. We started off wanting to bring restaurant-quality food to your door. This is really highlighted through the coronavirus, that people want more than just ready-to-eat food. They sometimes want food that’s ready to heat so that they can eat it in a couple of hours. People have always wanted a choice on the platform, and that used to be really simply defined as a choice of restaurants. And now it is really a choice of all food, and it’s starting to extend into non-perishables and even non-food items and alcohol.
In the Hong Kong market, it is highly competitive. And so I think the pace of growth drives a lot of innovation, on our platform and across competitive platforms. In particular, I think Uber Eats is really strong at this and constantly innovating in terms of the speed and reliability of delivery. And we’re able to get you an order in under 30 minutes in pretty much any part of the city in Hong Kong, and that‘s true in thousands of cities globally. So I think, high growth and intensity drive innovation, and those are some of the ways that innovation is playing out in terms of competition.
To finish, could you give us an overview of the Uber Eats ethos?
Our North Star is that we really want to provide great-quality food anytime to anyone, anywhere, and I think that’s what sort of led us, up until now, to become a place where consumers can go for anything you know you want to eat. And we want it to be effortless, we want it to be reliable and we want you to find the best restaurant selection that you can on on the platform.
Beyond maybe just restaurant-delivered food so that we can really be there for anything that you want to eat on any occasion and, potentially in the future, even be the platform that powers local commerce beyond food. So I think it’s evolving. On occasion people maybe do want to pick up the food instead of having it delivered. Maybe they want grocery so that they can prepare their own meals sometimes as well as ordering really high-quality restaurant food and get that all from the same platform.
So I think, yes, that will come to Hong Kong in time. I think we’ve got a lot to build in Hong Kong, and we’re really just getting started.
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