Illustration for article titled Uber Eats promotes Black-owned businesses, but who benefits?
Photo: Matthew Horwood (Getty Images)

If you’ve opened up the Uber Eats app within the past week you’ve likely noticed a new, prominently featured banner emblazoned with the words “Support Black-owned restaurants.” This is Uber Eats’ latest promotion, which both highlights Black-owned (Uber-partnering) restaurants and waives delivery fees for ordering from those same restaurants for the duration of 2020.

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As reported by Reuters, the offer applies in both the U.S. and Canada and is a response to the surging support for Black-owned businesses following the murder of George Floyd by police and the ensuing protests. But, as with many other corporate campaigns inspired by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, this appears to be just another instance of performative allyship rather than a genuine show of support.

None of us should be surprised by this. The destructive fees imposed on restaurants by app-based delivery companies have famously come under fire in recent weeks, and even consumers are fed up. According to Observer, Uber is continuing to charge the participating Black-owned businesses up to a 30% fee on every order placed. Though delivery fees are waived, the Black-owned restaurants being promoted still have to hand off an exorbitant percentage of the money they’re taking in.

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One of the things that makes all of this so frustrating is that Uber’s idea is actually a good one! Promoting Black-owned restaurants and waving fees could genuinely help, both by giving those restaurants increased visibility and by improving their profit margins. It’s just that, in typical fashion, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

Let’s pretend for a second that an Uber executive is actually reading this story and is open to making changes, because it’s not going to take a lot to fix this promotion: Instead of just waiving delivery fees, also reduce the other fees those businesses have to pay. Instead of adding a temporary banner driving traffic to Black-owned businesses, rethink how your algorithm presents and recommends restaurants to customers, and prioritize Black-owned businesses all year long. And, you know, maybe reconsider how this information is even presented. The first line of copy that appears when you click on the “Support Black-owned businesses” link reads, “You asked for an easy way to order from Black-owned restaurants—we listened.” We’re in the Uber Eats app, you guys, we know it’s your initiative. This is not the time for being self-congratulatory.

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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