Uber claims more turf in the pandemic food delivery conquest: the company has finally acquired the grocery delivery service Postmates because, in Uber’s masterful doublespeak, “combination of platforms provides more choice.” They actually said that. Postmates will retain its logo and app but will merge its delivery network with Uber.
And, Christ—Uber is also announcing that it’s going on a national “listening tour,” so that restaurants and merchants can “give feedback.” The announcement comes, conveniently, after it won a legislative push to permanently deprive its drivers of fair wages and bargaining rights in its home state of California.
Uber and Postmates announced the deal a few months into the pandemic, as Eats looked like the sturdiest leg of Ubers’ operation. Though Uber remains unprofitable, some analysts hope that the deal, which is entirely in stock, will change that. With Postmates’s customers, Uber Eats can pull ahead in Los Angeles and Miami, and come within spitting distance of DoorDash in Phoenix, according to some metrics. Uber already expanded to grocery delivery in some cities in July, beginning with the acquisition of grocery delivery startup Cornershop.
Throughout the pandemic, delivery services have scrambled to become go-to providers for all same-day needs. Doordash expanded to grocery in August, Instacart nudged toward non-food items (a Sephora partnership), Amazon added another grocery chain to its Whole Foods empire (Amazon Fresh.) Kroger has been testing ghost kitchens for a partnership with delivery service ClusterTruck. Ironically, Uber founder Travis Kalanick’s new venture, CloudKitchens, which he started in 2017, has been largely absent during the pandemic, aside from some headlines about a suspected arson at its headquarters.
Postmates represents just one piece of Uber’s grand ambition for Amazon-scale domination. In its 2019 annual report, it lists among its competitors not just GrubHub and Deliveroo but also logistics companies: Uber’s freight service competes with international shipping businesses like DHL, and its planned autonomous vehicles will compete with Tesla and Waymo. Why make money when the goal is becoming too big to fail.