Uber Eats customers have given $3 million in direct contributions to restaurants using a new feature on the app designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The milestone caps off a related campaign by Uber Eats to match up to $3 million in contributions made by customers. Uber Eats is sending its $3 million in matched funds to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. The company had previously donated $2 million to RERF.
The matching campaign has ended. However, the restaurant contribution feature, which was first rolled out in New York and is now in 20 countries, will continue.
The restaurant contribution feature was developed by a team of engineers in a flurry of activity over about seven days, according to Therese Lim, who leads the restaurant product management team for Uber Eats.
“There was no executive who said ‘oh we need to build this feature, you all go build this now,” Lim said, adding that this was a grassroots effort prompted by the wave of restaurants that were forced to close regular dine-in eating due to the spread of COVID-19. Lim said Uber Eats users started reaching out to employees via LinkedIn, email and other means to ask how they could help restaurants.
“We started to see restaurants get impacted severely by this,” Lim said. “This was particularly true as the various states started implementing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders.”
The team had two primary concerns — beyond the basic backend operations — about the feature. They didn’t want it to cannibalize the amount of tips that users gave delivery workers, nor did they want it to cause customers to buy less from restaurants.
The team started to roll out the feature in a small area within New York City on April 1 to make sure tipping of delivery workers wasn’t impacted. The feature launched April 3 across the entire city and then expanded over the next week to the rest of the United States. The contribution feature is now live on the Uber Eats in 20 countries.
“We didn’t want to introduce anything that actually hurts restaurants,” Lim said. “It was important to make sure we weren’t introducing friction into the experience that would cause a user to become impatient or displeased with the outcomes and maybe not actually finish their order.”
Those concerns didn’t bear out, according to data compiled since the app feature launched. Customers not only tipped more, they were also frequent users of Uber Eats.
Users who made restaurant contributions tipped their couriers 30% to 50% more than orders without a contribution, according to Uber. About 15% of Uber Eats customers in the U.S. who made a restaurant contribution were repeat contributors.
Data also shows that early dinner time, around 6 p.m., was the most generous time period, according to Lim. Dinner time, between 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., was the most popular for contributions, making up 60% of contribution dollars.
And certain foods, namely international cuisine, encouraged more contributions from users. French, Ethiopian, Argentinian and Thai restaurants had the highest contribution rates, according to Uber.
Some states were more generous than others. The top five most generous states, by percentage of active Uber Eats users who made at least one contribution, were Washington, Vermont, Montana, Connecticut, and South Carolina.