Did DoorDash just fire the first shot against Instacart? On Monday (June 21), the restaurant delivery service announced a partnership with grocery chain Albertsons Companies to provide one-hour grocery delivery from almost 2,000 stores of the grocers stores, including locations of the brands Safeway, Vons and Jewel-Osco locations.
“Leveraging our extensive logistics network and Albertsons’ wide selection of fresh groceries, we are creating a one-stop-shop for customers to access any of the essentials they need, delivered to their doorstep within an hour,” Fuad Hannon, head of new verticals at DoorDash, said in a statement. Of course, for many online grocery shoppers, there was already a one-stop-shop that could leverage its extensive logistics network to deliver groceries in under an hour. (Yes, Instacart.)
While restaurant meal delivery services have been eking into other categories for some time now, they have for the most part appeared to have something of a truce with Instacart, generally steering clear of working with major supermarket chains (or at least, steering clear in countries in which the grocery delivery company operates). Similarly, as many non-grocery stores as it added to the platform, Instacart never got into the restaurant delivery game. Now, with DoorDash’s latest announcement, Instacart may no longer have any reason to hold off on deploying its extensive network of drivers for just that purpose. After all, it is not as if the drivers working with, say, Uber Eats have some special vehicle that would allow them to deliver restaurant meals any better than Instacart’s gig pickers.
For its part, Instacart has been busy expanding beyond its initial model, third-party delivery from grocery stores. The company announced an almost 6,000-location collaboration with convenience store chain 7-Eleven, a partnership with organization retailer The Container Store and another with crafts retailer Michael’s. The company has also been looking to create its own automated fulfillment centers, which would represent a clear break from the in-store picking model that it typically uses.
Across the food delivery space, companies have been changing the language used in their self-descriptions to allow more flexibility, leaving space for partnerships with a wider range of businesses. Take, for instance, the comment made by Raj Beri, Uber’s head of grocery delivery — already an aggressive position title, if you are Instacart — announcing the company’s partnership recent partnership with Walgreens: “From on-demand delivery of essentials to hassle-free vaccine scheduling all at the touch of a button, we’re focused on eliminating barriers that burden customers’ everyday lives, helping them go anywhere and get anything instantly.”
That same ethos of anything anywhere seems to be guiding most of the leading delivery services as they open their umbrellas wider and wider (or buy larger and larger umbrellas), breaking down the barriers that initially separated them from other, non-food retailers. This both creates more opportunities for these delivery services to profit — a welcome boost, given the narrow margins of the model — and places them into competition with more businesses. Additionally, it stretches their networks of gig drivers, already notorious for being underpaid and overworked, thinner and thinner. Still, it seems we are entering the age of the gig restaurant meal/everyday essentials/grocery/craft supply/container delivery driver.