Companies like DoorDash and Uber Eats are juggling their social responsibility and essential services as cities across the country institute curfews.

By Mike Pomranz
June 02, 2020
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The current wave of Black Lives Matter protests and the coronavirus pandemic will forever be historically linked. And an already delicate public health situation—with stay-at-home orders only slowly starting to lift—has now become even trickier to navigate.

Many people who have been self-isolating to protect their health or the health of others have been leaning heavily on delivery services for meals and, in turn, providing restaurants with some income (even if the apps are taking a significant cut of the profits). Now, these delivery services are experiencing disruptions in certain parts of the country, especially during evening hours when curfews are causing some cities to effectively shut down.

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As DoorDash—America’s largest restaurant delivery service—stressed, it is trying to juggle both social and business responsibilities. On Sunday, the company tweeted its support for the BLM cause, writing, “We cannot be silent or still in the face of injustice, racism, and murder. Words matter. And so do actions. We are committing ourselves to take action to support our local black communities and black-owned businesses. #blacklivesmatter.”

DoorDash has also been forced to make immediate operational adjustments. “The health and safety of our community of Dashers, merchants, and customers remain our top priority,” a company spokesperson told me via email. “At this time, DoorDash is tailoring operations based on the guidance we have received from governments, such as reducing hours to abide by local curfews.”

Reached for comment, Grubhub, America’s second-largest service, agreed, stating, “We're monitoring the situation closely and pausing operations when needed because of curfews or local updates.”

And an Uber spokesperson (responding to my question about Uber Eats) provided me with a similar response to DoorDash. First, they directed me towards a tweet from CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in support of the current movement. “[Uber] stands in solidarity with the Black community and with peaceful protests against the injustice and racism that have plagued our nation for too long. My hope is that if each of us recommits to doing all we can to counter bigotry wherever we see it, change will follow,” he began. “But it’s clear that lasting change will only come from reforming the systems that have led us to where we are today. To that end, we’re donating $1M to [the Equal Justice Initiative] and [Policing Equity] to support their important work in making criminal justice in America more just for all.”

Then came Uber’s operational response: “Our teams on the ground are working closely with each individual city to best support them based on their needs and the local situation,” the spokesperson told me. “Some cities have requested that we suspend operations completely while others want to ensure Uber is available for essential services.”

That final sentence touches on an important additional point: What makes the current situation unique for delivery services is that, unlike at other times, due to COVID-19, some of these services are currently considered “essential.” As a result, choosing to impose blanket curfews is putting food delivery’s essential status to the test.