Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney and President Adam DeWitt were clear the company’s third-quarter financial results were a disappointment—putting it lightly—but the execs of the one-time top U.S. delivery brand kept returning to the mantra that nobody should focus too much on the latest results, because “we’re going to make a lot of money next year.” Industry watchers, investors and analysts didn’t take the bait, as Grub’s stock cratered more than 40 percent, and The Wall Street Journal called the results a “gut check” for the food-delivery industry.
At press time, Grubhub’s stock remained at its low of approximately $32/share, avoiding the next-day bounce-back that has been a hallmark of the recent, increasingly volatile U.S. stock market.
Grub reported third-quarter revenue of $322 million, missing estimates of $330.5 million. In addition, orders decreased 15 percent over the same period last year. The company’s newly revised fourth-quarter guidance calls for revenue between $315 and $335 million during the fourth quarter, well below the forecast of $388 million. Maloney and Dewitt pointed to slowing growth across the delivery industry, with customers less loyal to the apps and order frequency softening overall.
Pre-empting the results by a day, the CEO released a letter further explaining the results in an effort “to allow for a better dialogue on the call itself.” It included positive nuggets like 15,000 “net new partnered restaurants” and 900,000 “net new active diners” that it said would help generate additional profits for its restaurant partners. In addition, the company pointed to marketplace partnerships with eight of the ten largest enterprise restaurants in the United States and a new high of 21 million active diners using the service.
Commenting on wider issues in the delivery space, Grub called itself “the only profitable model operating at scale in the United States,” and that aggressive customer acquisition spending by competitors means the company needs to change its strategy. One part of that strategy is adding “non-partnered” restaurants onto the platform, which seems like a bad idea for a business that already has a reputation problem among some operators. In addition, it will also increase spending, as well as greater restaurant-funded loyalty rewards and incentives.
Rather than pivoting to profits, as many analysts have predicted, it seems like there’s a whole new front in the great delivery land grab, both in terms of retaining new diners as well as adding more restaurants, even if that means doing so without the consent of the restaurant’s ownership.
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