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Special Delivery: Assessing the Best Food Delivery Apps

Today, you can simultaneously stay in and eat out courtesy of on-demand food delivery apps. It may not be the future we dreamed of, but it’s the future we all secretly knew we needed.

For years, in-home eaters relied on drawers full of takeout menus and the ability to call to place an order for delivery. Sure, those things still exist today. But now, the takeout menu drawer fits in the palm of your hand and you can order whatever you’d like without getting up from the couch.

These apps have also given many people the opportunity to be their own boss and work for themselves as delivery drivers.

On a high level, food delivery apps work by partnering with restaurants and engaging in a “revenue share” model, which means that anywhere from 5 to 30 percent of the order revenue goes to the app, and the rest goes to the restaurant. They also rely on a network of individual drivers who work as contract laborers to pick up and deliver the food. And, most importantly, the apps rely on the customers—people who will pay the increased order costs (delivery fee, driver pay, tip) to get their food delivered straight to them.

Given that there are several key players in the on-demand food delivery game, it can be hard to choose between functionally identical services if you’re hungry for both quality food and unmatched service. You might think to yourself, “How do I compare GrubHub vs. Doordash? UberEats vs. Postmates?”

As a driver, you might face a similar dilemma: how do you choose which service to drive for? If you’re trying to break into the food delivery game, “Postmates vs. Grubhub” is more than a fun hypothetical smackdown – it could be a helpful springboard in your journey to some serious income!

Methodology

Because what’s best for you might not be what’s best for someone else, we decided to research and summarize the key differences of the four most popular food delivery apps and let you decide for yourself. We assessed the pros and cons of each service for both diners and drivers, in the interest of educating people on both sides of food delivery service. The apps below are presented in order of their Apple App Store ranking for the category of “Food & Restaurants” as of September 2018.

UberEats

4.8 stars / 804k ratings / #1 Food & Drink

Though UberEats is the new kid on the block, having emerged in 2015, it has quickly become the most popular on-demand food delivery app. Given that Uber has been around since 2009, the company already had a large and established network of drivers and customers to tap into. This made its expansion, and ascent, into the food delivery game relatively easy.

In order to drive for UberEats, you must meet the minimum driving age in your city, have a valid driver’s licence, registration, car insurance, one year of driving experience, and a two- or four-door car made after 1998. You must also pass a background check.

Diner

Cost Breakdown:

  • When you order through UberEats, you not only pay for the food itself, but you also pay a delivery fee. The delivery fee (AKA “booking fee”) is based on distance from restaurant to customer and ranges from $2 – $8, and the customer can decide how much they are willing to pay by setting a “Max Booking Fee.

Pros

  • UberEats is in 71 cities across 24 countries. If you travel often but only want to use one food delivery app, UberEats has you covered.
  • You can tip drivers up to 30 days after the order has been delivered.
  • There is no minimum order amount.
  • You can track order/driver, like with the regular Uber rideshare app.

Cons

  • Closed bag policy means drivers don’t check to make sure order is correct.
  • Booking fees can be expensive.
  • UberEats is a separate app from Uber, which means one more thing will be cluttering up your phone screen.

Driver

Earnings Breakdown:

  • As a driver for UberEats, you are paid a pickup fee, a drop off fee, and for mileage from restaurant to the customer. These fees differ based on the city in which you are operating.
  • By default, payment cashes out once a week.
  • Some estimate that drivers earn around $8 – $12 per hour, after deducting vehicle expenses. Glassdoor shows a range of $5 – $15, so it likely depends on what hours you work and how busy and dense your city is.

Pros

  • “Closed bag” policy absolves the driver of responsibility for making sure order is correct.
  • You can “cash out” up to five times a day.
  • You don’t actually have to drive: you can deliver by bike, scooter, or even foot.
  • Drivers keep 100 percent of the tips.
  • You can choose to only do deliveries while you work, or you can also do regular Uber rides.

Cons

  • “Cashing out” costs a $1 fee.
  • You often have to wait around while food is prepared.
  • UberEats insurance only protects you while you are on active deliveries, not the time spent waiting for one, such as when you first open the app or in between deliveries. This time is referred to as “period 1,” and if you want to be a delivery driver, it’s important to make sure your car insurance policy covers you during this time. Your typical personal policy will not cover rideshare, or “commercial,” use of your vehicle, so it’s important to get a policy that protects you during this time. Doing your research and using an insurance comparison website could help you find the right policy.

Doordash

4.3 stars / 44.8k ratings / #4 Food & Drink

Doordash was founded in 2013 by three Stanford University students and has since grown to a company worth $1.4 billion with 850 employees.

In order to drive for Doordash, or become a “dasher,” you must be 18 or older, have no major driving violations in the last seven years or more than three incidents in the last three years, and pass a background check.

Diner

Cost Breakdown:

  • When you order from Doordash, you pay for the price of the food, applicable taxes, a delivery fee, and sometimes a service fee.

Pros

  • Doordash is available in 600 cities.
  • You can cancel your order, as long as you do so before the food starts to be made.
  • You can tip your dasher through the app or in cash.

Cons

  • Delivery fees can be pricey, as the standard is $5.99, but they can get up to $8, though they rarely exceed that amount.
  • Depending on if a restaurant pays a commission for delivery or not, Doordash might charge you a service fee on top of the delivery fee.

Driver

Earnings Breakdown:

  • For every delivery, drivers receive at least $1 from Doordash and 100 percent of the tip.
  • Doordash shows you the guaranteed amount you’ll earn for a delivery before you accept or reject that order. If the sum of the order is less than the guaranteed amount, Doordash provides a pay boost to make sure you receive the guaranteed amount. If the sum is more than the guaranteed amount, you pocket the extra cash.
  • Dashes get paid once a week through direct deposit.

Pros

  • The app offers commercial insurance for its drivers, but also requires them to have personal policies.
  • Doordash provides a “Red Card” to pay for orders. In the case that the Red Card does not work, you can pay with your personal card and get reimbursed.
  • During peak meal hours, Doordash occasionally provides a guaranteed minimum hourly rate.

Cons

  • Because Doordash sends you an Activation Kit in the mail, getting up and running as a delivery driver can take a bit longer than with other apps.
  • Auto insurance is provided for the time that you are actively delivering. As with UberEats, this insurance does not cover you during “Period 1” while you are waiting for an order. That being said, it’s important to have your own car insurance policy that covers you during these times and the commercial use of your car.
  • If you fail to have your own car insurance, Doordash’s coverage may not even apply.

Grubhub

4.8 stars / 409k ratings / #5 Food & Drink

Grubhub, founded in 2004, merged with Seamless in 2013 to become one of the largest on-demand food delivery apps in the game. They have 14 million active diners, approximately 80,000 partner restaurants, and serves over 1,600 cities across the United States and United Kingdom.

To be a driver, you must be 19 or older with two or more years of driving experience, have a valid driver’s license and car insurance, and pass a background check.

Diner

Cost Breakdown:

  • As with other apps, you pay for the food, applicable taxes, and a delivery. However, with Grubhub, the delivery fee is set by the restaurant, not the app.

Pros

  • It is widely available (1,600 cities).
  • If you don’t mind looking for deals, Grubhub regularly offers delivery discounts, which can make it cheaper than the other apps.
  • Restaurants are obligated to provide the same prices to Grubhub users as to walk-in customers.
  • You can use Grubhub to order for pickup as well.

Cons

  • Restaurants set their own delivery fees and can additionally set minimum order sizes.
  • Restaurants determine their own delivery ranges, so some restaurants might not deliver to you even if they show up in the app.

Driver

Earnings Breakdown:

  • According to Indeed.com, Grubhub drivers make an average of $10.96 per hour, not accounting for vehicle expenses.
  • In line with its competitors, Grubhub pays you per order, plus 50 cents per mile.
  • You keep 100 percent of your tips.

Pros

  • Some markets offer a “guaranteed hourly minimum.”
  • Payments are sent once a week on Thursdays via direct deposit.
  • You can schedule hours in advance through the app by booking time-slots referred to as “blocks.” Drivers who book blocks in advance are given priority when offering orders.
  • Grubhub has a recognition program that awards drivers to certain levels depending on their service and stats. The higher the level, the higher the possible rewards.

Cons

  • Driver mileage is calculated “as the crow flies,” which often does not reflect the actual amount driven.
  • Aside from requiring drivers to have their own personal car insurance policies, Grubhub does not clearly state what additional insurance coverage they provide. This makes it particularly important that you ensure your personal policy covers you while delivering and while waiting for orders.

Postmates

4.1 stars / 45.3k ratings / #9 Food & Drink

Postmates has been in the food delivery game since 2011, and has a more diverse product offering than UberEats, Grubhub, and Doordash. According to their website, they provide “Food, drinks and groceries available for delivery or pickup,” whereas the other apps focus on restaurant delivery. Here, we focus solely on Postmates’ restaurant food delivery service, though.

To drive for Postmates you must be 18 or older, have an insured car, and pass a background check.

Diner

Cost Breakdown:

  • As with the other apps, ordering through Postmates will incur a few additional fees, making it a bit more expensive than ordering through a restaurant directly. So, when using the app, be prepared for the applicable taxes, a delivery fee, and tip on top of the price of the food. Postmates is unique in that the delivery fee ranges from $1.99 to $3.99 for Partner Merchants and $5.99 – $9.99 for all other merchants. Partner Merchants are distinguished by a green checkmark next to their names, making it easy for diners to choose them and their lower delivery fee.

Pros

  • Postmates is available in over 150 locations.
  • Fees are always shown for your review at checkout and prior to paying.
  • You can choose to become a “Postmates Unlimited” subscription customer for $10 a month and never pay a service fee when ordering $20 or more from a Partner Merchant.

Cons

  • A “variable, percentage-based service fee” is applied to the price of your items.
  • Depending on where you order from, you could get hit with a “small cart fee”. In LA, that minimum is $10; everywhere else, it’s $12.

Driver

Earnings Breakdown:

  • According to Glassdoor, the average base pay is $15 per hour. However, this does not account for car costs, such as gas and depreciation.
  • The Postmates driver pay structure is very similar to the other apps. Each city has its unique formula and prices, but in general, as a driver you get paid for each completed pick up, each completed drop off, a per minute waiting rate for time spent at pick up location, and a per mile rate for the distance driven between pick up and dropoff locations.
  • You keep 100 percent of your tips.

Pros

  • You are given a corporate debit card to pay for customer’s orders.
  • There are very transparent earnings explanations. You can see how much you earn after each delivery and how earnings were calculated, from distance traveled to wait time and tip.
  • Money is deposited 4-5 business days after each delivery.
  • Postmates sends you a delivery bag to use while working.
  • The app tells you the best times to go online and what locations will give you the most delivery offers.

Cons

  • Restaurants can use the third-party API to use Postmates for delivery, and in that case, tips go to the restaurant, not the driver.
  • It’s a totally cashless system asks that drivers be tipped exclusively through app.
  • Postmates does not clearly outline the insurance coverage they provide for their drivers. Their website states that “all on-demand independent contractors maintain an up-to-date, personal auto insurance policy,” and that they “provide excess auto insurance…in the event your personal policy does not adequately cover damages you cause to other parties.” That being said, it’s imperative that if drive for Postmates, you make sure your personal car insurance policy covers you while you’re out delivering and while your waiting before or in between deliveries.

Takeaways

Whether you’re a diner or a driver, each app we’ve outlined is functionally the same. Find the food you like, press some buttons, and voilà, your food comes to you. These services do, however, have their own unique nuances.

As a diner, these apps typically won’t have huge fee discrepancies between them, so it doesn’t really matter which one you use. After all, these companies are competing with each other, so if one app proves significantly cheaper service than another, it’s not good for business. Just keep in mind that the drivers for all of the apps rely heavily on tips, so be sure to follow appropriate tipping etiquette and give a 15 to 20 percent tip any time you receive a delivery. If you want to save some money, though, many restaurants now allow you to order online for pick-up or delivery through their websites.

However, as a driver, these nuances are more important. Especially when it comes to insurance coverage, you want to make sure that the insurance provided by the app and your personal policy keeps you covered at all times. One bad accident could cause financial ruin if it happens during “period 1” (when you’re waiting for an order but not actively delivering) and you don’t have proper coverage for this window.

Using Insurify and similar insurance comparison sites will ensure you’re adequately covered. It might take a few minutes of your time now, but it could save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

So, if you’re interested in working for yourself and gaining a more flexible schedule, on-demand food delivery could be the job for you. When choosing between apps, though, be sure you understand what coverage they provide, any incentive structures, and how big the market share is in your particular city.

Happy eating…or delivering…or both!

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Sabrina Perry is a writer with experience in data journalism and a passion for translating complex topics into insightful and engaging stories. She has a degree in neuroscience from University of California, Santa Barbara and can often be found reading books about behavioral economics, decision-making, and personal finance.