Order Food Without Leaving Facebook
Facebook announced it has partnered with third-party delivery services such as EatStreet, Delivery.com, DoorDash and ChowNow so users can order food without ever leaving the social media site. Facebook is also working directly with restaurants including Jack in the Box, Five Guys, Papa John’s, Panera and others; so users can browse restaurants in the “Order Food” section of the “Explore” menu.  “People already go to Facebook to figure out what to eat by reading about nearby restaurants, and seeing what their friends say about them. So, we’re making it even easier,” wrote Facebook VP Alex Himel in a blog post. The company has been testing the feature since last year and launched it in the U.S. on October 13.  Read the full story here

Delivery, E-commerce and Their Impacts on Packaging
Changes in food delivery options are impacting how food packaging must perform, notes a new report from the Foodservice Packaging Institute. In its 2017 Trends Report, the FPI gathers and analyzes survey information from companies throughout the foodservice packing supply chain, offering insights from industry players and a look at high-level trends. This year’s report spotlights “how focused the industry is on the demands of increased e-commerce and delivery services,” said Lynn Dyer, FPI’s president, in a statement. “As delivery options rapidly expand and evolve, so must the packaging.” That includes everything from a shift away from polystyrene to a greater interest in tamper-evident packaging and food safety. Dyer will talk more about trends in foodservice packaging and their impact on the burgeoning delivery market during Food On Demand’s 2018 conference, March 19-20 in Dallas, Texas.  Read the full story here

Last Call for Amazon Wine Marketplace
Apparently Amazon can’t do it all—or at least not on every platform. As the online retailer pushes alcohol delivery through its Amazon Fresh and Prime Now channels, it will shut down its Amazon Wine marketplace at the end of the year. Given that Amazon now owns Whole Foods, which also sells wine and other alcohol at many of its stores, it’s not surprising the Seattle-based company is refocusing its strategy. Amazon Fresh is available in nearly two-dozen major U.S. metro areas, plus London, Berlin and Tokyo, and Amazon in August expanded the cities included in alcohol delivery service through Prime Now.  The company’s email to sellers says, in part, “as Amazon continues to offer customers additional retail options for buying wine, we will no longer offer a marketplace for wine at this time.”  Read the full story here

Grocery Delivery Service Peapod Moves Downtown
Peapod, the online grocery store company founded in 1989 in Skokie, Illinois, announced that it’s moving its corporate headquarters from the far northern Chicago suburb down into the city’s West Loop neighborhood.  In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Carrie Bienkowski, Peapod’s chief marketing officer, said the move is intended to bring the company a larger cohort of skilled workers, while also allowing a more open-plan layout designed to create a more collaborative office for employees.  According to its website, Peapod currently services the Chicagoland, Milwaukee, southeast Wisconsin, Indianapolis, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and greater Washington D.C. markets.

Amazon Announces Plans to Invade Your Home

Amazon Key, a new service for Prime members, adds another layer of convenience by enabling in-home delivery where drivers can bring packages directly inside the homes of customers who opt-into the service.  Amazon Key will be available on November 8 in 37 cities and surrounding areas across the U.S., with more locations rolling out over time. Delivery is available on tens of millions of items sold on Amazon.com and the delivery is available at no extra cost for Prime members.  Once setup is complete, receiving in-home delivery is as simple as a click: Customers select the “in-home” option and Amazon handles the rest. No passcodes, no fuss.

“Amazon Key gives customers peace of mind knowing their orders have been safely delivered to their homes and are waiting for them when they walk through their doors,” said Peter Larsen, vice president of delivery technology for Amazon.

Yes, peace of mind, that’s the first thing that popped into our brains.

Using the Amazon Key app, customers track their delivery with real-time notifications, watch the delivery happening live or review a video of the delivery after it is complete.

This state-of-the-art technology doesn’t simply replace a key with a digital passcode. Each time a delivery driver requests access to a customer’s home, Amazon verifies that the correct driver is at the right address, at the intended time, through an encrypted authentication process. Once this process is successfully completed, Amazon Cloud Cam starts recording and the door is then unlocked. No access codes or keys are ever provided to delivery drivers. And, for added peace of mind, in-home delivery is backed by Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee.

Again, to reiterate, nothing creepy about this at all.

Customers can visit www.amazon.com/key to check eligibility, pre-order the Amazon Key In-Home Kit and schedule free professional installation.

Will Robots, VR And AI Be Commonplace By 2025?
A recent survey of the hospitality industry by Oracle paints a futuristic picture of the year 2025.  In a presentation at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Oracle Director Sundar Swaminathan and head of the casino division, Scott Lampman, discussed the acceptance for bleeding-edge technologies like VR, robots and AI among consumers.

Technologies that were once downright creepy, like facial recognition, are now accepted, as long as it makes the experience better. Some 49 percent of survey respondents said facial recognition and 3D imaging would improve their restaurant experience. They said they like being recognized without providing their ID. Just short of half (46 percent) of restaurant operators expected facial recognition to be commonplace by 2025.

As for AI, 34 percent of respondents said suggesting items based on past experiences would improve their guest experience, 31 percent said ordering from a virtual assistant would improve the experience. And automatic charges via AI are as attractive, 32 percent of respondents said being charged automatically would improve their experience.

As for robots, well it’s mixed. According to Swaminathan, restaurants aren’t ready for robots. He said 37 percent of respondents said being greeted by a robot would be invasive. Restaurant operators, however, believe robots will be commonplace in the back of house doing things like cleaning, prep work and training.

Grubhub CEO: Competitors ‘Wasted’ Billions Trying to Compete

Grubhub CEO Matt Maloney didn’t mince words about the market advantage the third-party delivery leader enjoys. In an appearance on CNBC’s Mad Money, he said it’s not about promotions or buying users in a market, it comes down to service.  “People want to connect with their restaurants. It’s about the service. And the only thing we do is we connect diners to their restaurants,” Maloney told host Jim Cramer.

He said that connection is the reason behind the 57 percent stock growth and growing footprint. But certainly the Eat24 acquisition and partnership with Yelp will help going forward.”We have the deepest and the broadest network possible, and now with the Yelp partnership, they have over 100 million … people every month looking. And … 70 percent of them are looking for restaurants,” Maloney told Cramer. “People want to order. And so that’s where we bring our orders in and that’s where you’re going to see increased conversion, increased performance on Yelp.”  He said the company is on track to hit $4 billion in revenue.

How Does Instacart Balance Supply And Demand?

Supply and demand is key to success in the delivery world. Companies need to have enough people delivering for the demand, but don’t want to waste money paying for more than they need.  Jagannath Putrevu, a data scientist at Instacart described (at length) how the company achieves that balance through simulations.  “There are several factors contributing to unpredictability in our demand and supply, especially in our new markets, and that makes staffing a very hard problem,” Putrevu wrote in a Medium post.

Everything from weather, to rush hour, college finals and Game of Thrones affects that staffing challenge. To project it better, he and the data science team use complex Monte Carlo Simulations to simulate demand and the ideal number of shoppers. That’s where it gets complicated.

“Let’s say x_h (h: 8 AM to 10PM, x_h are integer variables that range from [0, ∞)represents the number of shoppers required at hour h. The objective is to solve for all x_h,” wrote Putrevu.

Yeah… If you have a penchant for data science, go read the full post for some incredible transparency into the science behind a successful company in the gig economy.

DoorDash Kitchens Gives Restaurants More Space
DoorDash is upping its game from delivering food for restaurants to providing them with kitchen space to create it in its 2,000-square-foot Silicon Valley commissary. The Star pizzeria in San Jose is the first to sign up , according to Business Insider, taking one of the four kitchens in the commissary. Rent is based on a percentage of gross sales.

“The landscape of dining in America is changing,” Star owner Ben Seabury told Business Insider. His portfolio includes six traditional restaurants that are on pace to do $18 million in sales this year. Delivery accounts for about 20 percent of his overall restaurant business.

DoorDash Kitchens is also an option as overflow kitchens for delivery or catering operations.  Click here to read the full story