Let the hunger games begin: UberEats, the Uber for food delivery, has launched in London

Deliveroo deliverers. Image: Getty.

In my humble opinion, one of the best things about living in a city is that, with a few jabs at my phone, I can order most sorts of food directly to wherever I am. No calling and painstakingly reading out numbers from a paper menu. No leaving the house. No changing into respectable outdoor clothes.  

And over time, the number of ways to do so has increased dramatically. Takeaway mainstay JustEat was joined in London by Deliveroo in 2013, healthy food delivery service Pronto launched in 2014, Belgian start-up Take Eat Easy arrived this year – and this month, London becomes the 18th city to be served by Uber’s new food delivery app, UberEats.

Here’s your need-to-know:

1. No, you won’t share your next Uber ride with a pizza – UberEats will be delivered by bikes and scooters, not cabs.

2. You can't get it through the main Uber app it's a separate app called "UberEats". 

3. It’s launching with 150 restaurants on its books, from chains like Chilango and Hummus Bros to independent restaurants like Borough Market’s Fish!.

4. For now, you can only order to central London.

5. For now, there is no delivery fee, usually set at around £2-£3 by competitors. 

6. There’s no minimum order – this is unusual, as most delivery services and restaurants set a minimum of £15 or so…

7. ...and if your order costs £20 or less and takes more than half an hour to come, UberEats gives you £20 credit towards your next meal.

These last three points would ring alarm bells on any business plan. It's notoriously difficult to make delivery services profitable, and Deliveroo relies heavily on its partnerships with massive, popular chains like Nandos to make it work.

By not charging a fee, having no minimum order (you could, technically, order a can a Coke from a restaurant and nothing more) and giving out cash for late deliveries, Uber probably stands to lose money on the service, at least at first. 


Will those tricky margins have an effect on wages? Hard to say, but it's unlikely Uber will be handing out generous paychecks in these circumstances.

Uber's business model here appears to rely on killing the competition, even if it hits Uber financially – then ramping up delivery prices and times once it’s eaten (sorry) into Deliveroo and other competitors' business. 

So how easy will that be? A Business Insider piece reporting on Pronto’s launch noted that most restaurants were happy to send out food via multiple delivery services, though rising numbers may tax their patience. It would certainly be within the services’ interests to sign exclusivity deals with certain outlets or chains. 

UberEats may also need to lure riders from other services to meet demand. An Evening Standard preview of the service used a courier who said she previously worked for Deliveroo, but preferred UberEats’ “flexibility”. Yet riders working for either Uber or Deliveroo have few labour rights – and, at Deliveroo at least, wages below the London Living Wage. As with Uber’s car drivers, riders for both companies are described as “contractors” rather than employees.

The on-demand economy presents the lure of flexible working times to drivers and low prices and convenience to customers, but it revokes everything from holiday pay to job security in the process. As the UberEats launch shows, it's a race to the bottom in terms of price and convenience – and we need to make sure that isn’t taken out on those bringing us the bacon.

 
 
 
 

A growing number of voters will never own their own home. Why is the government ignoring them?

A lettings agent window. Image: Getty.

The dream of a property-owning democracy continues to define British housing policy. From Right-to-Buy to Help-to-Buy, policies are framed around the model of the ‘first-time buyer’ and her quest for property acquisition. The goal of Philip Hammond’s upcoming budget – hailed as a major “intervention” in the “broken” housing market – is to ensure that “the next generation will have the same opportunities as their parents to own a home.”

These policies are designed for an alternative reality. Over the last two decades, the dream of the property-owning democracy has come completely undone. While government schemes used to churn out more home owners, today it moves in reverse.

Generation Rent’s new report, “Life in the Rental Sector”, suggests that more Britons are living longer in the private rental sector. We predict the number of ‘silver renters’ – pensioners in the private rental sector – will rise to one million by 2035, a three-fold increase from today.

These renters have drifted way beyond the dream of home ownership: only 11 per cent of renters over 65 expect to own a home. Our survey results show that these renters are twice as likely than renters in their 20s to prefer affordable rental tenure over homeownership.

Lowering stamp duty or providing mortgage relief completely miss the point. These are renters – life-long renters – and they want rental relief: guaranteed tenancies, protection from eviction, rent inflation regulation.

The assumption of a British ‘obsession’ with homeownership – which has informed so much housing policy over the years – stands on flimsy ground. Most of the time, it is based on a single survey question: Would you like to rent a home or own a home? It’s a preposterous question, of course, because, well, who wouldn’t like to own a home at a time when the chief economist of the Bank of England has made the case for homes as a ‘better bet’ for retirement than pensions?


Here we arrive at the real toxicity of the property-owning dream. It promotes a vicious cycle: support for first-time buyers increases demand for home ownership, fresh demand raises house prices, house price inflation turns housing into a profitable investment, and investment incentives stoke preferences for home ownership all over again.

The cycle is now, finally, breaking. Not without pain, Britons are waking up to the madness of a housing policy organised around home ownership. And they are demanding reforms that respect renting as a life-time tenure.

At the 1946 Conservative Party conference, Anthony Eden extolled the virtues of a property-owning democracy as a defence against socialist appeal. “The ownership of property is not a crime or a sin,” he said, “but a reward, a right and responsibility that must be shared as equitable as possible among all our citizens.”

The Tories are now sleeping in the bed they have made. Left out to dry, renters are beginning to turn against the Conservative vision. The election numbers tell the story of this left-ward drift of the rental sector: 29 per cent of private renters voted Labour in 2010, 39 in 2015, and 54 in June.

Philip Hammond’s budget – which, despite its radicalism, continues to ignore the welfare of this rental population – is unlikely to reverse this trend. Generation Rent is no longer simply a class in itself — it is becoming a class for itself, as well.

We appear, then, on the verge of a paradigm shift in housing policy. As the demographics of the housing market change, so must its politics. Wednesday’s budget signals that even the Conservatives – the “party of homeownership” – recognise the need for change. But it only goes halfway.

The gains for any political party willing to truly seize the day – to ditch the property-owning dream once and for all, to champion a property-renting one instead – are there for the taking. 

David Adler is a research association at the campaign group Generation Rent.

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