Senior VP Kevin Kearns, right, today introduced Grubhub’s new service, Supplemental Delivery, on opening day of the Food On Demand Conference in Las Vegas. He also reflected on the past 18 months. “It’s an honor to serve the industry,” he said, in discussion with Food On Demand Editor and conference master of ceremonies Tom Kaiser.

“This industry is not done changing the world,” declared Editor Tom Kaiser as he kicked off the Food On Demand Conference at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas today. Grubhub exec Kevin Kearns recalled a year ago March when the pandemic shut down the United States.

“Talking about the pandemic, my heart goes out to the restaurants. They were in an existential challenge, and there were some very sad stories out there but there were also some successes too,” said Kearns, senior VP of the restaurant network for Grubhub.

“For our team, imagine this. So you have hundreds of employees who have never worked remote before. We have short notice to get them out of the office and work remote, and there are tens of thousands of restaurants calling in to get onto our platform as fast as possible. And we were one of their lifelines. Because of what they did we were able to produce hundreds of millions of orders for our restaurant customers,” Kearns said about employees.

“It all came home to me one time, I live in the northern suburbs of Chicago. I was talking to the owner” of a client restaurant, “and he said, please thank your team for me. We would not be open” without them, Kearns said. “It’s an honor to serve the industry.”

Kaiser, editor of Food On Demand, asked Kearns to address the negative perceptions of third-party food delivery providers, and what Kearns thinks will change the narrative. “We get our share of negative press,” Kearns said. “My job as the head of restaurants is listen to our partners. We have frequent roundtables where we get restaurants together and they give us feedback. We attend hundreds of meetings every year, and we make a point to listen and understand what their challenges are.”

One example, he said: We heard from restaurants that they want more orders at a lower cost. Makes sense! So we created a product called Grubhub Direct.” It can be used to supplement restaurants’ marketing efforts, and it’s owned by the restaurants so is commission-free.

This morning, November 10, Grubhub announced a product called Supplemental Delivery, for restaurants that do their own delivery, typically with their own drivers serving a small radius. “Supplemental Delivery actually builds on what you have, and it creates a ring outside of your delivery zone,” where the restaurant can access Grubhub drivers to fulfill orders. “In the first month, we provided 200,000 incremental orders to the restaurants that signed up.”

The Food On Demand Conference, presented by Food On Demand, Franchise Times and the Restaurant Finance Monitor and covering the intersection of food, technology and mobility, continues through Friday noon at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Follow coverage of the conference here.