HOBOKEN -- Introducing UberEATS.
No, it's not a crude criticism of the controversial ride-hailing app. It's Uber's new food delivery service.
Starting Thursday at 8 a.m., an Uber driver will pick up and deliver takeout orders from among more than 100 participating restaurants in Hoboken, Jersey City and elsewhere along the Gold Coast for $4.99, plus the cost of the food.
"We've been cooking up something new - an app that makes getting great food as easy as requesting a ride," Prabhdeep Singh, the app's general manager for UberEATS in New Jersey, said in a statement. "It's our new food delivery app, and it's called UberEATS!"
The new service doesn't just opens up new menus for foodies who can't or won't go out to restaurants that don't offer their own delivery service.
It also creates new employment opportunities for cyclists and owners of 2-door vehicles, who hadn't been able to join Uber's workforce up to now, because the company requires 4-door vehicles to pick up passengers.
Participating restaurants include Razza Pizza Artigianale, Just BeClaws and the Hamilton Inn in Jersey City, and Hoboken's Cafe Elysian. The full list of eateries is posted at UberEATS.com.
Eugene Flinn, the owner of Cafe Elysian and nearby Schnackenberg's, said UberEATS lets him offer delivery service for the first time, without the need to hire his own drivers.
"For me, I was really leery of having a delivery service, because if you have only one of two guys, and they're busy, your customers could end up waiting one or two hours," Flinn said.
Apart from the $4.99 delivery fee paid directly to UberEATS by the app's users, restaurants pay the app a percentage of the food bill. Flinn declined to say what that was.
"Each of the participants negotiates their own rate," Flinn said.
Flinn said he'll assess the value of he service as time goes on. But it seems worth it, he said, in part because he may gain new customers just by being listed among UberEATS participants.
Like hailing a ride from Uber, to order using UberEATS, hungry people should download the app on their phone, or go to ubereats.com, enter an address for delivery, choose a restaurant and order.
Deliveries can be taken right to the customer's door, or handed off at the curb, whichever the customer prefers. A tracking feature lets users follow their order from the kitchen to their door step.
On Friday, Gov. Chris Christie signed a law regulating the popular ride-hailing industry in New Jersey, capping a tumultuous legislative process marked by threats from Uber executives that they would pull out of New Jersey, now the 36th state to regulate Uber, Lyft and similar app services.
Critics had insisted the largely unregulated industry's vetting of drivers was not nearly as thorough as the government-mandated screening process that traditional limo and cab drivers have to undergo.
Much of the criticism, which often cited high-profile incidents involving Uber drivers, came from the traditional taxi and limousine industry, which insisted the apps had an unfair advantage.
Uber has rejected the criticism, noting that the company insures each ride for up to $1.5 million in potential liability.
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