Uber Eats is testing a system for cheaper meal delivery

Uber Eats delivers meals to hungry customers in their home or workplace. Like Uber’s ridesharing service, the transaction — both request and payment — takes place via a smartphone app.

In a bid to make its service more competitive while at the same time increasing its efficiency, Uber Eats is looking at ways of encouraging customers located in a specific area to order from the same restaurant so that a single driver can deliver multiple meals in one journey.

Uber has been testing the service in India, according to TechCrunch. It’s called Uber Eats Pool, taking its name from Uber Pool, the part of Uber’s ridesharing service that groups riders together for cheaper fares.

As you might imagine, Uber Eats Pool uses algorithms and machine learning to serve up the right choices in the right places, and at the right time.

Here’s how it works. Uber Eats charges a restaurant a small fee for priority placement on the home screen of the Uber Eats app. The featured restaurant maintains its prominent position for a limited period of time, possibly just a few minutes if the restaurant reaches its limit for orders. It can’t stay up for long because customers who order early won’t want to be kept waiting. In this way, the restaurant can expect a flurry of activity as its business features on the app and orders rush in.

The featured restaurant only shows for customers in a particular part of the city, giving the driver a better chance of delivering all of the meals before any of them turn stone cold. Importantly, to incentivize customers, a discount on the order is offered. There’s also a countdown clock that shows exactly how long they have left to order before the discount disappears, a mechanism that could certainly persuade (or pressure?) someone with a rumbling tummy to hit the order button more quickly.

“It’s similar to what we did with Uber Pool,” Uber Eats’ Stephen Chau told TechCrunch, adding how Uber Eats is using machine learning to offer discounts at particular restaurants for particular customers in particular areas. “When multiple people order from the same restaurant, delivery drivers can pick up multiple people’s food,” Chau said.

Uber Eats hasn’t said when it might bring the system to the U.S., but if the trial goes well in India, we can imagine it landing in other markets before too long.

Uber Eats launched in 2014 (as UberFresh) as a lunchtime-only meal delivery service in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Austin, Texas. It was originally part of the Uber ridesharing app, but in 2016 it released a standalone Uber Eats app and has since been launching the service in more cities around the world.

Of course, Uber isn’t the only outfit offering a meal-delivery service. In fact, competition in the space is tougher than ever. Digital Trends has put together a useful list of some of the best services available today.

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