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A special delivery from the everything store
DoorDash's DoubleDash is just the latest deal smashing grocery, retail, and restaurants into one
My town got a Wal*Mart the year I turned eight. This was my first introduction to an “everything store” — clothes and toiletries and home appliances and... a few goldfish if I’m remembering correctly. This was long before Walmart turned into a grocery store and actual decades before its recent ghost kitchen deal with Ghost Kitchen Brands (though I’ll stan for nachos from the snack bar any day!)
In the years since my ‘90s childhood, the convenience market has grown, now subsidized by hundreds of millions (if not more!) from hungry investors looking for returns. Its latest iteration: off-the-charts growth from online convenience stores with micro-fulfillment centers (like GoPuff) competing against the likes of CVS and your local corner store. DoorDash has been in the convenience game for over a year, offering delivery from convenience stores since last spring and officially debuting its DashMart virtual store concept in August 2020.
Now it’s tying two parts of its business together with a product called DoubleDash, prompting DoorDash restaurant customers to tack on convenience items from a handful of convenience stores like 7-Eleven and the virtual-only DashMart. Get that DoorDash restaurant delivery and tack on a pint of ice cream and a bag of Cheetos, too.
This is (ha!) convenient for diners. It’s also good marketing for DoorDash, a company that continues to diversify its delivery business beyond restaurants. DoorDash is pushing its restaurant customers to become convenience customers — a proven strategy that works to fuel growth, both for convenience partnerships and for its own DashMart.
Let’s use the Uber example. In a quarterly earnings call last week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi addressed — again — the successful conversion of its rideshare customers to restaurant delivery customers. Now, Uber Eats customers are increasingly converting to rideshare customers. “In many markets, especially suburbs and smaller towns, Eats is sometimes the first way customers engage with Uber,” he said. In April, May, and June, more than 20 percent of first-time Uber riders in the US were Eats customers first. In the UK, the figure jumps to 40 percent.
That is: if a customer is already using a convenience app for one thing, it’s becoming increasingly likely that they’ll use it for a new thing. This is great news for DoorDash on its quest for bonafide super app status.
This will hardly be the company’s final move in the space. Last week, it was reported that DoorDash planned to invest in a Germany-based quick convenience delivery service, called Gorillas. A report later said that DoorDash could be on its way to a larger investment (enough to essentially give it control over the company.) This is similar to how LatAm’s Cornershop grocery delivery business became part of Uber — first with a big investment, then with a takeover.
The big win here would ultimately be that DoorDash itself becomes the everything store, not just the company that delivers the things from the everything store. Physical stores are racing to keep up here — in addition to Walmart’s ghost kitchen deal, grocery retailer Kroger just announced a partnership with Kitchen United to offer meal pickup and restaurant delivery. The everything store has entered a new era.
Except maybe it hasn’t. On Tuesday evening, The Information reported that the Federal Trade Commission is looking into two of Uber's recent deals: a partnership with GoPuff for fast convenience delivery, and a planned acquisition of Drizly, announced months ago. According to the piece, they are two separate investigations but overseen by the same team. Turns out the everything store could be in jeopardy. The Information has more. ($)
How to vaccine mandate
The Delta variant is wreaking its havoc on our Covid recovery, and restaurants are taking steps to keep guests and staff safe. Vaccine mandates are in the news right now and not just because New York City instituted them for indoor dining — plenty of restaurants across the country are both requiring them and asking guests to prove it. I reported a story for Food & Wine last week on the topic and was overwhelmed by chefs and restaurateurs who wanted to speak on the record in favor of mandates. Plenty introduced them at restaurants assuming that their local city or even state governments would fail to enact them.
All of the restaurants I talked to said they haven’t gotten complaints at the door, but social media, of course, is an entirely different thing. Restaurateurs who were among the first in their communities to mandate vaccination for diners reported attacks and name-calling on social media, because of course they have. In-person, though, the same restaurants report guests are happy, even proud, to display vaccination cards. One restaurateur reported that her business had its best weekday ever the day after they publicly announced vaccination was required to eat inside.
Last week, Yelp introduced “vaccine required” and “fully vaccinated staff” options for restaurants to add to their Yelp profiles. More importantly, a consumer can search using those parameters —i.e., “restaurant near me that requires vaccinations for indoor dining.” And perhaps most important, Yelp says that it will proactively monitor for instances of review-bombing, which is the company’s term for the online pile-on that happens when a business announces restrictions that a certain subset of the internet somehow finds liberty-crushing.
OpenTable lets restaurants designate vaccination requirements in listings, too, though it’s not as easily searchable. (OpenTable said it maintains a list of restaurants designated vaccination-required and will update it manually every day so… that’s a job!) So far, New York seems to be the only jurisdiction mandating restaurants check vax status to dine inside, though others, including my hometown of San Francisco, have said it’s possible. One of my sources even spoke to the White House before we talked — apparently they asked lots of questions about reception and enforcement. At least they’re asking?
My story: Restaurant vaccine requirements: Here’s what you need to know, for Food & Wine.
What else is happening?
WoodSpoon, a delivery service for home-cooked food, just scored a big investment from a fast food company. Restaurant Brands International, parent company of Popeyes, Tim Hortons, and Burger King, led a $14 million round of funding. The connection is a little confusing — even a statement RBI’s chief operating officer was tricky to parse. “[We] believe the future of restaurants includes a fully integrated digital experience for guests. Our journey to be a leader in the digital restaurant space includes learning about new service modes and emerging trends and we are proud to support and learn from such a passionate and talented team.” So.. it’s interested in the tech that supports home cooks and how it can be applied to quick service restaurants? Okay.
Our friend Flippy is back. Most coverage of Flippy the burger robot I can remember centered around the fact that it broke a lot. But a new piece in the Wall Street Journal details Flippy’s success as a robotic fry cook for an Indiana White Castle. It works 23 hours per day. There is a (mildly terrifying) video. And there are more on the way.
It didn’t happen if it’s not on social media. Or ... wait. One website, Stolen Stories, allows users to download Instagram stories from pricey restaurants like Per Se, Carbone and Le Bernardin and post them as their own. The site explains it best: “We ripped Instagram stories of rich people’s expensive food so you can flex like those suckers who paid $100 for one scallop on a 20” plate.” Living large in 2021, baby.
Speaking of living large, when the chef at San Francisco Vietnamese restaurant Lily created a dish of fried rice topped with uni, caviar, crab, truffle and Wagyu beef, pricing it at $72 (and informally referring to it as the “#1 douchebag fried rice), it was very much meant as a gimmick. But the people of SF didn’t see it that way, and it accidentally became the restaurant's hottest dish, trapping owners in an unprofitable joke that left the kitchen in the weeds and the restaurant’s signature (and actual Vietnamese) dishes ignored by diners. Guess what else went viral? The San Francisco Chronicle’s story about the entire mess.
Cloudy with a side of pepperoni: Once a pizza pioneer, Pizza Hut has slipped in terms of innovation compared to its competitors. In order to regain its footing, the chain is turning to data, analytics, and AI to learn more about its customers and enhance digital experiences and sales. This includes learning where customers are located and sending product recommendations to them based on the local forecast. This tactic has also been used to varying degrees of success by McDonald’s, who paid millions for predictive technology company Dynamic Yield in 2019.