TECH ROUNDUP: WHAT DOORDASH’S ULTRAFAST DELIVERY COULD MEAN FOR RESTAURANTS

DoorDash is launching ultrafast grocery delivery. The service will start in one of the company’s DashMart storerooms in New York City and promises deliveries in 10 to 15 minutes—the prevailing benchmark in the crowded ultrafast-delivery game. 

Notably, DoorDash’s ultrafast couriers, unlike its regular Dashers, will be full-time employees of a new company called DashCorps. The company said ultrafast delivery requires a different staffing model “to ensure orders are fulfilled instantly.”

The ultrafast delivery space has become extremely active over the past year, particularly in New York City, attracting lots of players and capital. DoorDash’s entry is not surprising—it laid the groundwork last year when it introduced its DashMart hubs, and it already offers grocery delivery at regular speed. But the news raises some interesting questions for restaurants.

First, could the increasing availability of speedy grocery delivery take away from restaurant delivery? It’s probably too early to answer this. My sense is that ultrafast grocery customers will be people who need an item or two right away, which is perhaps a different customer than someone looking for dinner on-demand.

Second, how might the DashCorps business evolve? These workers will earn $15 an hour plus tips and do things besides delivery, including stocking shelves and customer support. They will wear uniforms, report to a manager and use a different app than the one used by Dashers. All of this reminded me of a conversation I had with Stephanie Izard, the Chicago restaurateur who has been advising DoorDash on restaurant matters this year. One of her conversations with restaurants was about the idea of DoorDash offering different levels of delivery service—allowing a fine-dining place, for instance, to opt for more of a white-glove experience. Could DashCorps, with its full-time employees and tighter operations, become part of that?

And finally, why not ultrafast delivery from restaurants? Anyone who has had food delivered knows that it’s highly unlikely you will get a meal brought to your home in 15 minutes. For one thing, it takes longer to prepare a meal than it does to grab a can of soup off a shelf. But if DoorDash controlled more steps of the process—like it does in its DashMarts, and its ghost kitchens in California—it’s possible ultrafast delivery could become an option for restaurant customers, too. 

7-Eleven and Uber invested in Serve Robotics, the maker of sidewalk delivery rovers. The investments were part of a $13 million expanded seed round for Serve, which was spun out of Postmates earlier this year. Uber already has an undisclosed stake in the company.

Both Uber and 7-Eleven announced robot delivery tests recently—Uber Eats with Serve and 7-Eleven with a different autonomous delivery company, Nuro. It appears that the c-store giant plans to start using Serve robots to deliver its products, too. 

Serve’s bots are currently in use in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The company said it will use the funding to continue growing its fleet and developing its technology. 

Grubhub will start offering rewards in bitcoin. The delivery company has partnered with Lolli, a bitcoin rewards app, to allow customers to earn bitcoin on every order. However, to get the perk, they’ll have to download Lolli’s web extension or app and have that open when placing an order on Grubhub. They’ll get $5 in bitcoin on their first order and $1 on every order after that.

An ecommerce platform for distributors raised $16 million. Pepper was founded by two former Uber Eats staffers who noticed a lack of technology in the distribution industry, which still relies heavily on phone calls and paper checks for processing orders. Pepper aims to streamline that system by giving restaurants a way to order product online. It currently works with 25,000 restaurants and grocers in the U.S. and Canada. The Series A round was led by Index Ventures.

Coco unveiled a new delivery robot. The latest model, Coco 1, was created in partnership with Segway and has more carrying capacity, allowing it to deliver larger orders from more types of businesses, including grocers for the first time. A better battery also widens Coco’s delivery radius to 3 miles. Coco’s bots are currently focused in the Los Angeles area, where it works with more than 50 businesses.

Square Inc. changed its name to Block. The financial services company that owns the Square ecommerce platform as well as the Cash App payment app and Tidal music streaming service chose the new moniker to better represent its various business units or “building blocks.” Restaurants won’t notice much of a change: The Square product used by many operators to process orders will continue to be called Square.

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