By Paul Sandle
LONDON (Reuters) – Uber Eats said orders for grocery delivery on its platform jumped 59% across Europe in March compared with February as countries locked down to fight the coronavirus, helping offset some of the impact of shuttered restaurants on demand.
Uber Eats, which competes with the likes of Deliveroo, Takeway.com <TKWY.AS> and Just Eat in online meal delivery, already offered alcohol and selected products from convenience stores.
European general manager Stephane Ficaja said Uber Eats’ store sign-up rate had doubled in March as convenience outlets looked for new channels to serve customers advised to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus.
“Everything that we are doing on grocery and convenience is driven by the fact that we are seeing strong consumer appetites from new consumption trends, people who are confined and cannot go out,” he said in an interview.
The data underlines the scale of the industry push into the grocery market, where it sees a gap for must-have products delivered much quicker than online orders from major supermarkets and the likes of Ocado <OCDO.L>.
The decline in households ordering online meals for delivery across the sector in March has provided an additional impetus to seek new revenue streams.
It also shows how shops are finding news ways to serve customers as the lockdown across the region continues.
More than 1,000 grocery and convenience stores were on Uber Eats’ app in Europe and more than 3,500 globally, he said, helping meet strong demand for essential foods and staples in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Sweden.
Uber Eats, a unit of ride-hailing service Uber Technologies <UBER.N>, teamed up with French supermarket Carrefour <CARR.PA> this month to help Parisians obtain food, toiletries and cleaning products within 30 minutes on average, while in Spain it is working with service station operator Galp in 15 cities including Madrid, Valencia and Seville.
Carrefour said the Uber Eats app was enabling it to deliver everyday products to communities safely and conveniently.
“As we face this crisis, we have a duty to come up with new solutions,” said executive director of e-commerce, data and digital transformation Amélie Oudéa-Castéra.
In Britain, Uber Eats is working with nine of the largest convenience store networks, with more than 700 shops on the platform.
Ficaja said it was talking with other retailers, including large supermarket groups, which are struggling to meet soaring demand for online orders, about joining the platform.
“Classic online channels are mostly completely saturated,” he said. “Our offer is a bit different, it’s smaller basket, smaller ticket, faster delivery.”
UK convenience store network Costcutter, which started working with Uber Eats in October, has seen a surge in orders on the platform, retail director Mike Hollis said.
“Our sales are up about 350% (compared with pre-coronavirus levels) on Uber Eats,” he said. “When we started, stores were seeing 200 or 300 pounds a week in sales, we had a store last week that had took 4,500 pounds in Uber Eats sales.”
He said fresh food and alcohol were popular on the app, with milk being the bestselling line. He said the number of stores on the app would exceed 100 in the next few weeks.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Josephine Mason)