Uber is opening its food delivery service to telephone orders in the U.S. as the technology giant seeks to expand its potential customer base to all mobile phone users.
The announcement comes two months after Uber launched its 1-833-USE-UBER phone booking service for ride-hailing in the U.S., allowing anyone to call and speak with a human operator who will arrange a ride on their behalf. All the caller needs is a mobile phone with basic text-based messaging functionality to verify their account and receive notifications. However, much has happened in the past two months, with shelter-at-home policies enforced by the COVID-19 crisis essentially decimating Uber’s core business and opening the door for food-delivery services to flourish — in theory, at least.
Last month, Uber announced that it would begin offering phone assistance to Uber Eats customers in France, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic. This was essentially designed to allow those without a smartphone to order food directly to their home. Now the service is arriving in the U.S., starting in New York City and the Greater Miami area, with plans to expand to more cities across the country in the near future. As with the ride-hailing phone option, users dial 1-833-USE-UBER and first-time users create an account by providing personal details, such as zip code and credit card information. Future orders will be automatically charged to the caller’s account based on their phone number.
While everyone is able to use the new service, it’s largely aimed at older adults who don’t yet own a smartphone. According to Pew Research, 81% of U.S. adults own a smartphone and 13% own a “dumb” mobile phone. And according to the 2010 Census, an estimated 235 million adults live in the U.S., which means that at least 30 million people own a “non-smart” phone. Given that Uber was already battling big losses prior to the pandemic, the company is clearly doing all it can to increase the pool of people who can use its service.
Earlier this month, Uber also fast-tracked the global launch of its Uber Eats for business service as it looks to cater to the millions of people who have recently begun working remotely, as well as those working on the front lines.