Hello, Thursday. Thanks for your patience this week as I catch up after a short family “vacation” with two toddlers. Lots of little updates today, feels like the original Chefs+Tech days! (aw, remember those?) Thanks, as always, for reading.
Uber Eats isn’t letting up on its star-studded advertising. A series of commercials featuring Patrick Stewart and Mark Hamill cast as rivals debuted in late September. Now the company is back at it with new ads featuring Olympian and greatest gymnast of all time, Simone Biles, and media personality Jonathan Van Ness.
According to data from iSpot TV, a TV ad measurement firm, one of the Stewart/Hamill commercials has aired over 2,000 times. The first Biles/Van Ness spot aired earlier this week; there are three currently in active rotation.
Everyone (in delivery) is hitching their brands to celebs right now; recent emails from Postmates offered “Free Delivery from Billie Eilish” and an exclusive look at the Coach x Michael B. Jordan fashion line. In September, DoorDash aired an Emmys-themed commercial featuring Tiffany Haddish. Grubhub’s recent TV commercials feature music by Fatboy Slim.
Celebrity spokespeople are clearly part of Advertising 101, but these kinds of huge ad investments make these brands, once scrappy and startup-y, feel grown up, heading for mass approval and appeal. (Just one of the Sir Patrick Stewart/Mark Hamill spots cost Uber an estimated $18 million to run to date, for example.) Third party delivery also competes on food and breadth of offering — big enterprise deals with restaurants like Taco Bell and McDonald’s often show up in co-branded ads, too. It all maps to the race to win consumer market share.
Now Shipping Nationally
Here’s a thing to watch: Legendary Austin restaurant Franklin Barbecue will ship you five pounds of brisket! It’s working with Goldbelly, a company that helps restaurants ship iconic (and other) food across the country. The company landed a big investment from Danny Meyer’s Enlightened Hospitality Investments in 2018 and has been around for years — chances are if you’ve ordered or received some beloved regional dish, it’s come through Goldbelly.
But! No one company can rule the market in the competitive world of food delivery, and I suspect other interests — like third party delivery services — are looking into this kind of long-distance fulfillment. They’re already supporting ghost kitchens to help restaurants expand their geographic footprint, why not specialty food shipping?
I can’t write about third party delivery from my desk in San Francisco without mentioning Proposition 22, the contentious measure on the California state ballot that would exempt drivers for companies like Uber and DoorDash from the provisions of AB5, a 2020 law that requires companies to reclassify drivers as employees. In addition to the daily mail from the Yes on 22 campaign (funded by hundreds of millions of dollars from the companies it would benefit) there’ve been mobile push notifications from my Uber app and food delivery bags encouraging me to vote yes on 22. A recent Instagram post from San Francisco's beloved Zuni Cafe (whose voice is on fire this pandemic season) summed up the opposition well. My personal feelings on AB5 aside (I try, I try), if 22 passes in California, it will be incredibly hard, if not impossible, to revisit the gig worker classification. Any changes to the bill would require a 7/8ths majority on the state level; local jurisdictions wouldn’t be able to circumvent the new rules. I support a gig worker’s choice to remain an independent worker if they choose. (I am a very happy freelancer myself!) But I don’t believe that supporting legislation written and sponsored by the large companies it benefits is the way for our society to adjust to the way people are working now. During a time of national crisis. In a pandemic.
Yelp’s Q3 Restaurant Data
Yelp just released its latest economic report, covering July, August, and September 2020. Instead of focusing on business closures, the report looks at openings — and found that new restaurant openings are down just 10 percent as compared to the same period in 2019. Yelp also observed an increase in new openings in the third quarter of 2020 for outdoor operations like farmers markets (211 openings) and food trucks (1,734 openings).
I have another story on Business Insider this week. This one takes on the problem with asking customers how they think restaurants are handling Covid safety, vis-a-vis reviews and ratings. I cover Yelp’s new anti-racism policy and also the changes it's made to deter complaints about Covid policy enforcement (Yelp reviewers are not allowed to post negative reviews of a business’s Covid protocol.) tl;dr: The fundamental problem with asking people for their opinion is that people really, really value their opinions. [Story is paywalled]