Uber launched in Australia in 2012, with UberX arriving in 2014. Since then it has seen its services grow to include other on demand services such as, food delivery, package delivery, shared e-bike hire and car rental. All the services are provided by an app underpinned by a highly sophisticated technological system.

When Covid -19 hit Australia in early March, Uber faced the issues many businesses did in relation to people working from home.

One unique challenge Uber faced was the impact of the pandemic on their partners: the drivers, restaurants and delivery people who earn with the Uber platform. Uber stepped up to assist.


COVID-19 had turned the world upside down and business in Australia faced necessary restrictions, including lockdowns. The restaurant industry was one of the hardest-hit sectors. The national lockdown saw restaurants across the country shutting their doors for weeks and in Victoria that later turned into months. Their dine-in revenue ceased. In that time, restaurant owners, like so many businesses, had been forced to adapt and, most critically, reassess how they do business, now and into the future. During that time their only source of income could occur via takeaway. For some restaurants, this was the moment of innovation.

I opened Corretto in Dee Why 2.5 years ago after working in the hospitality industry for the greater part of 8 years. I obviously had no idea that a pandemic would hit but as soon as it did, I signed up to Uber Eats.

The platform has helped open my business up to an entirely new revenue stream that we wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. Serving our customers exclusively through Uber Eats has allowed us to reach a whole new customer base.

Kurtis, Restaurant owner in Sydney

For Uber Eats, their focus was on how they could better support their marketplace - for consumers, delivery partners, and importantly restaurants - during this crisis.

People needing food, grocery essentials and even pet food relied on the Uber Eats platform to provide the delivery when they needed to stay home due to isolating, quarantining, lock down or simply to limit their risk. Restaurants needed help to keep trading. Delivery partners used food delivery to get extra income during these uncertain times.

When the pandemic first hit, Uber Eats focused its support on helping restaurants stay open and providing earnings opportunities across the market. This was critical in the early stages of the crisis. As time went on, they looked to the future and the long road to recovery, knowing more sustained measures were needed.

I moved to Australia from Brazil to study and immerse myself in a new culture.

Unfortunately, right after I arrived the pandemic struck. I’ve previously worked casual construction jobs but delivering with Uber Eats has provided me with an immediate income and given me the flexibility to work around my study schedule.

I love being my own boss – I can log on whenever and for however long I want.

Lua, a student from Brazil delivering with Uber Eats in Australia

They introduced new options for restaurants that changed the way they engaged with them, with lower and differentiated fees.

Restaurants were able to use their own staff to deliver Uber Eats orders received via the app. This enabled restaurants to choose delivery fees and coverage areas and pay less than half the previous commission to Uber Eats (8% for independent restaurants initially, before moving to the long-term rate of 16%).

Restaurants were able to divert staff to deliveries and keep more people in work. Importantly, restaurants could still use Uber Eats delivery partners during busy times – as a last-minute fallback – when they couldn’t meet the demand with their own staff.

People could also choose to cut out delivery all together and use the pick-up option. In March 2020, Uber announced a 0% commission fee on all pick-up orders until the middle of the year before moving to the long-term rate of 13%. This allowed people the choice to order via the app and then walk, cycle or drive to their neighbourhood restaurant themselves and collect their food.

Uber during this period also reduced its commission fees to relieve pressure on the bottom line of its restaurant partners. On the delivery partner side, Uber’s enabled earnings opportunities, and maintained high safety standards, including COVID-19 specific information and education, as well as existing features such as insurance coverage for delivery partners.

Uber knew that there is another business reality needing to be considered: “We can only thrive when our restaurant partners do.” That was true before COVID-19 and is even more so in 2021.

Uber also assisted restaurants which joined their network in other ways, they:

  • waived activation fees for new restaurants coming onto the platform,
  • enabled daily payments to improve cash flow, and
  • made up to $5 million in funding available for independent restaurants to deploy in app promotions.

They also supported the community by giving 25,000 free meals to frontline medical staff, expanded its four-year long partnership with Feed Appeal to help get more meals to Australians in need, and provided additional funding to the Women’s Safety Network (WESNET) to help family and domestic violence shelters get women to and from safe spaces in light of the increase in domestic violence during the pandemic.

Covid Safe Measures

Uber’s driver and delivery partners in Melbourne in particular, provided a crucial service, from helping essential workers get around to delivering meals to people staying at home. To support them and keep the community stay safe, they introduced new mask measures across the Uber service areas, as required by respective state directions. This meant that local drivers, riders, and delivery partners had to wear a face mask or covering when driving or delivering on the platform.

Uber provided single use face masks to its drivers, riders and delivery partners. They also added Face Cover Check technology to help confirm that drivers and delivery partners were in fact wearing a mask or face covering before they could start using the Uber app. Drivers or delivery partners were asked to confirm that they had taken certain safety measures and were wearing masks as required. The new technology would verify this by asking for a selfie to be taken. This was then communicated to the rider via an in-app message.

A similar checklist was applied to riders. Before every trip, riders had to confirm that they’ve taken precautions like wearing a face cover and washing or sanitising their hands and in Victoria, also take a ‘mask selfie’.

Driver partners were also able to cancel a ride if the rider was not wearing a mask or face cover, without penalty. Similarly, if a driver showed up without a mask on, the rider could cancel the trip without penalty too, and report the issue via the app via Uber’s two-way feedback system.

Uber also distributed tens of thousands of disinfectants and sanitisers, including through a partnership with Dettol, and shared public health authority messaging to driver and delivery partners, as well as eaters and passengers via the App.

Financial Assistance

Uber provided financial assistance to driver and delivery partners diagnosed with COVID-19 or ordered to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a public health authority due to a risk of spreading COVID-19. They moved quickly to implement this in early March 2020, ahead of any government support or any other platform. They were committed to provide driver and delivery partners with support as soon as possible.

They later enhanced this by expanding the eligibility, with caps, to include driver and delivery partners who had been told to individually quarantine because they had pre-existing conditions that put them at a higher risk of suffering serious illness from COVID-19.

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