Back in March, Uber Eats announced it would delist what it considered redundant virtual restaurants on its app. At the time, the company estimated it would be removing around 5,000 virtual listings, but it appears thousands of additional brands did not make the cut.
“We wanted to make sure that all restaurants on Uber Eats had the flexibility to experiment in this space,” John Mullenholz, head of dark kitchens for Uber Eats, told Nation’s Restaurant News in March. “We started to realize that instead of playing whack-a-mole with concepts that look very, very similar, we wanted to create a blanket policy that could apply fairly at a national scale to help address some of the issues we’re seeing.”
The common issue is that app users might be shown multiple “unique” restaurants on Uber Eats whose menus are actually identical. This is because all of the food for those listed restaurants comes from the same ghost kitchen. For example, Uber was looking into 12 different virtual brands selling identical breakfast burritos out of a Colorado sports bar’s kitchen. Rather than benefit the consumer, these redundancies create increased competition on the app and crowd out legitimate independent restaurants, making users feel like they actually have fewer options to choose from; the options that remain are inherently less interesting to diners.
To prevent this, Uber Eats has implemented the following guidelines:
- Over 50% of a virtual brand’s menu has to be unique from its parent restaurant.
- When a menu item is original to the virtual brand, photos of the item must be provided.
- Any virtual restaurant that falls to an average rating below 4.3/5 stars will be removed from Uber Eats.
As for the recent delisting of 8,000 restaurants and the new standards set by Uber Eats, Kirk Mauriello, CEO and cofounder of ghost kitchen company Profit Cookers, said the changes have given his brands more visibility and led to increased orders.
“There were so many companies taking advantage of the consumer and of the Uber Eats platform,” Mauriello told Nation’s Restaurant News. “The app was getting way too crowded with brands that were subpar and in many cases just duplicates of the same food offerings but under different brand names.”
Uber Eats is not alone in its crackdown. Both Grubhub and DoorDash have also implemented stricter standards for restaurants on their platforms. DoorDash has added requirements for virtual brands to have at least eight items on their menu, be at least 50% different from other restaurants operating at the same address, and have at least 50% hot or prepared items on the menu in order to discourage brands from selling entirely prepackaged food.
Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, but on a food delivery app it just makes things worse for everyone.