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UberEATS food delivery app launches in Baltimore

UberEATS food delivery app launches in Baltimore
UberEATS, Uber's standalone food delivery service, launches in Baltimore on Thursday. (Courtesy of Uber)

Ride or dine — that's Uber's new motto in Baltimore.

The rideshare company is launching its standalone food delivery service, UberEATS, in Baltimore on Thursday. The app allows customers to order takeout from about 100 local restaurants, with cuisine that varies from the smoked meats of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que to the Afghan flavors of the Helmand.

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UberEATS joins a crowded market in which hungry customers have a growing list of services that will deliver food to their doors. Homegrown companies like Baltimore-based OrderUp and other third-party players like Amazon, GrubHub and Eat24 continue to grow locally.

"It's definitely a really competitive marketplace, that's for sure," said Matt Alexander, OrderUp's general manager for Greater Maryland. "This is the most crowded space that I've seen."

UberEATS debuted in Los Angeles in 2014 and is currently available in more than 20 U.S. cities. Baltimore is one of five cities where the service launched this week; other new markets include Las Vegas, Nashville, Tenn., Stamford, Conn., and Tampa, Fla.

Brian Gelb, general manager for UberEATS Baltimore, said it made sense for Uber to add food delivery in Baltimore because the city's bustling restaurant scene paired well with the company's already strong presence here.

"It's been a great city to work with," Gelb said. "We love the feel of the city. Baltimore has an amazing food scene, lots of great local restaurants."

Although UberEATS is a separate app from Uber, Uber drivers have the option to drive for either service. UberEATS has less stringent vehicle requirements, meaning drivers with older models or two-door cars could deliver for UberEATS even if they're not eligible to drive for Uber. UberEATS will also offer bike delivery in Baltimore.

UberEATS' delivery radius extends as far south as Locust Point, north to Loyola University, west to Druid Hill Park and east to Dundalk.

The average delivery time in other cities where UberEATS operates is about 35 minutes, Gelb said. He expects speed combined with an established transportation network and low delivery fees to give UberEATS an edge over its local competitors.

UberEATS charges a flat $4.99 delivery fee in addition to the cost of the meal. And unlike Uber, there's no surge pricing.

"We really believe that charging a low delivery fee to the consumer is the right way to go," Gelb said.

Despite the heightened competition that UberEATS poses, Alexander doesn't expect UberEATS to eat into OrderUp's business.

"I don't really anticipate it having much of an impact on who we are and what we do," he said. "I think that a large portion of the community in Baltimore really resonates with OrderUp just because we started in Baltimore."

OrderUp, which was acquired by Groupon Inc. last July, didn't see much of a hit when Amazon began offering food delivery in Baltimore through Prime Now in December, Alexander said.

Alexander said the variety OrderUp offers — more than 500 restaurants between Baltimore, Towson and Timonium — will help keep the local company successful as competitors like UberEATS move into the market.

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Some of the restaurants offering delivery through UberEATS include Water for Chocolate, the Helmand, Faidley's Seafood, Aldo's Ristorante and Dangerously Delicious Pies. And more could come on board.

UberEATS charges restaurants to participate in its delivery services. Geld declined to disclose the cost.

Restaurants interested in adding UberEATS delivery can apply on its website.

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