Uber Eats debuts ‘dark’ grocery store nationwide

Uber Eats South Africa has introduced Uber Eats Market on its food delivery app. The dark store is opened in partnership with Smart Kitchen Co.

The announcement was made at an Uber Eats event in Johannesburg today.

The new store, according to the last mile delivery app, is Uber South Africa’s debut at quick commerce, enabling customers to expect delivery within one hour of placing their order.

The store opened its virtual doors in August, piloting in some areas of Cape Town. It’s now available in nine locations across Johannesburg and Cape Town, offering grocery items, like alternative dairy products and meats normally found in a commercial store.

At the launch, Cikida Gcali-Mabusela, GM for grocery and new verticals for Uber Eats Sub-Saharan Africa, discussed the local strategy, noting the quick commerce trend has seen explosive growth worldwide in recent years, and is now taking off in SA.

A dark store can be defined as a retail distribution centre or outlet that caters exclusively to online shopping, according to Peerless Assigns.

“The Uber Eats Market positions us to not only leverage the explosive worldwide growth of quick commerce but also to drive its adoption in Africa.

“The stellar success of the initiative validates our long-held belief in the value that we can unlock, for consumers and delivery people, by aggressively expanding into new verticals,” explained Gcali-Mabusela.

“Since going live on the app, the store has become the highest-performing non-restaurant store on the app, with 149% growth month-on-month. User response is a testament that consumers appreciate the convenience of getting anything they need within minutes at the touch of a button.”

Over the past months, the food delivery app has been ramping up its strategy to transform into a digital mall, adding new verticals to its category offerings, to include florists such as Dipalesa, beauty product merchants like Love Kinks, women’s apparel stores and stationery.

The Cape Town-based Smart Kitchen Co, which bills itself as the largest dark kitchen food business in SA, initially started by running several online-only restaurants, in various parts of SA.

In January 2020, billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper invested millions in seed funding in Smart Kitchen Co.

Gcali-Mabusela noted the new partnership is evidence of Uber Eats’ commitment to constantly innovate to meet consumer demands, while creating sustainable income opportunities for delivery people.

The store works the same as any other merchant on the Uber Eats app, but offers a grocery shopping experience that includes specialty items, such as dairy and meat alternatives, which were identified as being produce-selection gaps in many other online grocery offerings, she added.

On the Uber Eats app, the digital storefront offers browse and search functionalities to provide a user-friendly shopping experience, and a ‘bundles’ feature that lets shoppers buy a pre-selected range of items combined around specific events or themes, like ‘movie night’, ‘brekky bundle’ and ‘cleaning bundle’.

Gcali-Mabusela concluded: “The store has already enjoyed extremely positive shopper feedback, especially around the very short delivery times, which are under 15 minutes for more than 60% of people shopping at the Uber Eats Market.”


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