Hasty Tasting

Food delivery services come to Tucson

Food is a necessity, but with the local launch of grocery delivery services Instacart and UberEATS (the food delivery branch of the popular ride service) last week, Tucson residents need not walk farther than the front door to get it.

Instacart Senior Operations Manager David Holyoak said customers can log onto the company's website, fill a virtual grocery cart and choose when they want their food delivered. Orders are then delivered in as little as one hour, or up to seven days in advance. Holyoak added that customers can log onto the Instacart website and see if the service is offered in their area. If not, the company receives a message indicating that people in an un-served area are interested in the service.

"The people of Tucson really requested that we be there," he said.

So, to Tucson they came, where they are partnering with Bashas', Whole Foods Market, Petco, Natural Grocers, CVS, Fry's and Costco—without a membership. Economically, the service could have a big impact for its brick-and-mortar store partners, who are competing with online delivery services like Amazon.

"People are just really busy from 8 in the morning to 8 at night," Holyoak said. "People are struggling to find two or three hours a week to do grocery shopping."

"Shoppers," or the Instacart employees who buy and deliver food, are another group that may benefit from having an income that is both reliable and flexible. Most shoppers pick up their shifts a week in advance, due to feedback that indicated a desire for reliable hours, Holyoak said. However, shoppers also have the option to pick up and do jobs in the same day. So far, Instacart has hired approximately 100 employees in the Tucson area.

Holyoak said Instacart partners share their inventory catalogues with Instacart, so that what customers see online is the same as what is in-store. Shoppers are trained to select the highest-quality produce, so customers don't have to worry about bruised apples or browned bananas. Exclusive Instacart coupons on consumer product websites like Ben and Jerry's can actually make it cheaper to get a product through Instacart than at the store, Holyoak said.

Instacart orders must be a minimum of $35, and there is a flat $5.99 delivery fee. A promotion for the Tucson debut gives consumers $20 off of groceries and free delivery with the code HITUCSON entered at checkout. This means consumers can get, for example, $50 worth of groceries for $30, delivered for free right to their door.

Pam Giannonatti, Fry's consumer relations manager for Arizona, said that Fry's Clicklist program, which allows customers to order food online and pick it up curbside, has done well since its launch last year.

"It is very popular, especially for families, for kids going back to school," she said.

Instacart hopes to save consumers even more time by eliminating the need for a commute altogether.

For people who want to eliminate the time it takes to drive to their food, pick out their food and transform those ingredients into meals, there's UberEATS, available in over 100 cities worldwide, now including Tucson.

UberEATS General Manager Clay Carroll said that after the 2013 launch of the original Uber app in Tucson went well, the company looked for ways to expand in the city and provide economic benefit to local businesses.

"The restaurant and the chef get access to tens of thousands of customers that they wouldn't otherwise have access to," Carroll said.

UberEATS has 80 restaurant partners participating in the initial Tucson launch, including local names like eegee's, Baggin's Gourmet Sandwiches and Chickenuevo.

Robert Santiago, marketing director for eegee's, said that the restaurant has been considering using a delivery service for the past year. He views is at an opportunity to expand eegee's customer base and revenue stream without the investment required to open up new locations.

"This opens our business up to a whole new type of customer," he said. "It helps us compete with pizza and other restaurants that offer delivery."

According to Carroll, Uber has over a thousand drivers in the Tucson area, and hundreds of those participate in food delivery.

"There's a significant impact [for drivers] in that there's work to do 24/7 that they may not otherwise have access to," he said.

On the user side, stay-at-home foodies can log onto the app, place an order and expect an Uber driver to arrive with their food in 30 to 35 minutes. Flat booking fees start at $4.99 in Tucson.

Santiago said that eegee's initial launch includes six restaurants throughout town, and was excited to report that Uber was offering eegee's a special delivery radius.

"Uber has a three-mile delivery service," he said. "I was able to get them to give us four."

Because 65 percent of eegee's business is done through the drive through, he expects that customers will be accustomed to food that is picked up and then driven to its destination. He said he anticipates high numbers of orders from the UA dorms and surrounding apartments and also sees it as a way for companies, large and small, to have lunches catered by eegees.

"Kids are going back to school, and parents are busier than ever," Santiago said. "So if we can free up some time to get Grinders and French fries to people's doors, that's awesome."