UberEATS, Uber's standalone app for on-demand food delivery, has added in-app restaurant reviews in order to help people make more informed decisions about what to eat.
"We had heard from our consumers for a long time that they were interested in more information in general to help them make a decision of which restaurant to eat at," UberEATS Product Manager Ambika Krishnamachar told me at Uber's SF headquarters earlier this week. "In particular, users are looking for a vote of confidence, given what other people in their community think. We saw it was effective on the rides side, so we wanted to bring it over to EATS as well."
Now, in addition to being able to rate their delivery person, consumers can also rate the restaurant on a scale from one to five stars and the particular menu items they received from that restaurant on thumbs up/thumbs down basis. For those browsing through the app for places to eat, the restaurant rating reflected will be based on the last 90 days of data.
"Ratings as a concept through the transparency it provides is not only just good for the consumer it also benefits the marketplace as a whole," Krishnamachar said.
With ratings, restaurants can have a better idea of what their consumers like, what they dislike and how the restaurant can improve.
Unlike Uber's rating system for drivers, there is no particular rating restaurants need to maintain in order to remain on the platform. However, restaurants do need to meet certain standards around quality, inappropriate behavior, not complying with food regulations and other elements laid out in Uber's community guidelines.
Uber is also launching personalized menu recommendations for each restaurant and an easier way to see the restaurants you've favorited.
"Through this type of work and exploration of this data, we've started to gather really interesting insights on consumer demand patterns -- what are people looking for, what are the elements that are going into this decision-making and choice," Krishnamachar said. "We started to think about how we can use this information to sort of shape the marketplace and improve selection and quality overall for people."
This is where the idea of virtual restaurants comes in. Virtual restaurants, which UberEATS has been testing for a little while, are restaurants that exist only within the UberEATS app. UberEATS does this by first looking at specific neighborhoods within cities and analyzing what people are searching for. Imagine, Krishnamachar said, that there's a neighborhood where people are frequently searching for mexican food, but there's no restaurant nearby that offers that.
"We can take that demand insight and go to restaurants in that area who maybe don't serve Mexican good but have similar ingredients or equipment that might work," Krishnamachar said. If the restaurant is interested, they could put up another business on UberEATS and brand it separately.
The virtual restaurants concept is still in its early days, but there are some restaurants already doing this with UberEATS. One is Chicago pizzeria Si-Pie Pizzeria. UberEATS realized people were searching for chicken nearby Si-Pie Pizzeria but there wasn't much available. So the owner of Si-Pie Pizzeria, who already had a fryer on hand, decided he could also make fried-chicken. But instead of adding that to his pizza menu, he branded it as Si's Chicken Kitchen, which is only available via UberEATS.
It turns out that move was good for business. In October, after running the virtual kitchen for about year, the owner's sales of chicken surpassed delivery sales of pizza.
"It's an opportunity to increase selection overall for consumers but also an opportunity to really optimize and maximize the potential of each restaurant," Krishnamachar said.
This article originally appeared on TechCrunch.