There are countless players in the food delivery business, from Grubhub and Postmates to sole restaurants like Domino’s Pizza. But only two have remained top contenders on the App Store and elsewhere over the past year: Uber Eats and DoorDash. Now, it’s time to settle which is the best.
Both companies recently reported strong fourth-quarter earnings, with Uber’s delivery business — which mostly includes Uber Eats — turning a profit for the first time, and DoorDash hitting all-time high order numbers. But the food delivery business has long been viewed as a winner-takes-all market, where one player needs to offer “the highest quality, the greatest selection, and the most affordable price,” as former Facebook and Google leader Valerio Magliulo wrote back in 2016. To the victor goes the market, everyone seems to think.
The battle to be the best food delivery service is still very much on, as both DoorDash and Uber Eats look to prove they can remain strong as COVID-19 precautions wane. But Protocol broke down revenue, profit, number of supported restaurants and other factors from DoorDash and Uber Eats over the past year to determine which business reigns supreme.
Grubhub, which Just Eat Takeaway acquired last summer, is the third major player in this space. We didn't include it in our analysis because Just Eat did not disclose revenue and profit for the company in the last two quarters. Just Eat did not return Protocol’s request for comment.
The number of DoorDash orders have climbed over the course of 2021. The company started with 329 million orders in Q1, increased to 345 million orders in Q2 and bumped up to 347 million orders in Q3. By the fourth quarter, the company reported a total of 369 million orders, prompting its shares to soar.
Still, Uber Eats appears to get far more orders. The company didn’t disclose the number of orders for its delivery business and didn’t respond to Protocol’s request for comment about the information. Still, you can get a decent approximation of its order volume by dividing the company’s gross bookings over the past four quarters by its average order price. Based on that math, the number of orders bumped from roughly 481 million in Q1 to 515 million in Q4.
Revenue for both delivery businesses has grown over the past year. Uber Eats brought in $2.4 billion in the fourth quarter after steadily climbing from $1.74 billion in the first quarter. DoorDash’s revenue increased as well, but it took in less money than Uber Eats: The company brought in $1.3 billion last quarter, up from $1.1 billion from the first quarter.
Uber’s delivery unit posted its first-ever adjusted EBITDA profit of $25 million. The business had been moving in that direction over the course of 2021, when it began with a loss of $200 million.
DoorDash turned a profit all four quarters last year, but its most recent income number is a drop from the previous two quarters. The company made its highest-ever adjusted EBITDA profit of $113 million in Q2, then fell to $47 million in Q4. DoorDash CEO Tony Xu said he expects the company to continue to thrive in the next year, even as pandemic-related precautions taper off.
"I think we've put to rest … this question of what happens to demand as diners go back and you didn't cite restaurants," Xu said during an earnings call Wednesday. “Clearly takeout and delivery … They are complementary. It's very possible to eat inside of a restaurant and get delivery."
Rankings and other factors
DoorDash has consistently remained No. 1 on the App Store among food delivery apps, while Uber Eats has jumped between fourth and second place over the past few months, according to Sensor Tower.
One thing Uber has going for it: Eats supports far more restaurants than DoorDash. The business supports at least 750,000 restaurants, based on the company’s Q2 results, while DoorDash supported over 390,000 restaurants as of late 2020.
On its face, Uber Eats is an undeniably larger business in terms of the sheer number of merchants it supports and the amount of cash it takes in. But DoorDash has remained the most well-liked food delivery business on the App Store, and has incrementally brought up its revenue and customer base over the past four quarters.
Both have proven they can remain dominant businesses even as pandemic-related measures ebb and flow. The coming year will prove whether food delivery can remain just as strong, and whether one or the other can start to take over.