Restaurants may hate it, but it's a consumer-first approach that can build loyalty in a world where there's often little difference between the giant delivery apps.
— Jason Clampet
Deliveroo and Uber Eats are two of the most widely recognized food-delivery businesses in Europe, sharing a mission of connecting hungry customers with top-notch restaurants in the region’s biggest cities.
But in the sprawling megalopolis of London, the fierce competitors have a common shortcoming: Both are delivering food from some establishments that have the lowest possible food safety rating.
At least 23 restaurants on the apps’ combined platforms in London have been awarded a zero rating out of five by the U.K. Food Standards Agency, falling short on factors such the hygienic handling of food, cleanliness of facilities including sinks where employees wash their hands, and pest control, according to a review by Bloomberg. Together, the companies deliver from thousands of restaurants in the London area.
Deliveroo is one of Europe’s biggest startups, while Uber Eats is the food delivery arm of the world’s largest ride-hailing company, valued at $72 billion. U.K.-based Deliveroo recently raised about $480 million from investors including Fidelity and T. Rowe Price, and offers “takeaway delivery from premium restaurants,” according to its website.
However, Deliveroo works with 22 restaurants in London with a zero-out-of-five food hygiene rating. Uber Eats, which has a smaller reach in London, delivers food from nine restaurants rated at zero. Eight of the restaurants are shared on both apps.
“In the tiny number of cases where a restaurant we work with does not meet the high standards Deliveroo and our customers expect, we support them to raise their standards by making sure they have access to independent, expert advice,” Deliveroo said in an emailed statement.
Uber Technologies Inc. requires restaurants to have an FSA rating of two or higher when they first sign up. “If we’re made aware a restaurant’s rating has fallen below this threshold, we will investigate and take the necessary action,” Uber said in an emailed statement.
The exact failings of each restaurant are not disclosed. A score of zero means that urgent improvement is needed, and those with such a low rating are also likely to have a history of serious problems, according an FSA spokeswoman.
In England it is optional for a restaurant to display an FSA rating at its physical location. Instead, all ratings are available on the FSA’s website. When ordering food from Deliveroo and Uber Eats, the apps provide no mention of the ratings. Deliveroo does offer a user-generated rating, consisting of a smiley face and a percentage. Almost all the restaurants on Deliveroo’s app with a zero FSA rating were rated above 80 percent.
“We believe that food-delivery businesses would serve their customers better by displaying the official food hygiene ratings of the businesses they are working with,” said Chris Emmins, founder of KwikChex, a U.K. firm that investigates online feedback and reputation issues.
Five-year-old Deliveroo, headquartered a stone’s throw from the Bank of England, is ubiquitous in Europe’s capitals, available in more than 200 cities on four continents, while Uber Eats is launching its app in 100 cities across Europe. Both delivery apps are favorites for those working in the financial sector, with office receptions in the Square Mile and Canary Wharf often full of moped drivers dropping off costly burgers and sushi at lunchtime.
One upmarket fast food chain, with a menu including elderflower smoothies and vegan burgers, received a zero rating for its outlet in Canary Wharf, in the shadow of Barclays investment bank. Other restaurants with a zero rating include a Thai restaurant in trendy Shoreditch — a hub of U.K. startups — and a restaurant that serves only crepes, based down the road from Royal Bank of Scotland’s London office.
Deliveroo applies high standards to its own kitchens, however. The startup has opened a number of kitchen spaces, the size of shipping containers and often placed in parking lots, and filled them with Thai outlets and pizza joints. The FSA has inspected two of these units in London — both have the highest rating.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.