Customers can schedule their food to be ready to eat in the restaurants as soon as they arrive.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated July 03, 2019
Credit: SOPA Images/Getty Images

Uber Eats is a pretty straightforward concept: You order food from a restaurant, and an Uber driver delivers it to you. But Uber has been testing a new service that eliminates the seemingly most important part of that equation: the driver (and not by replacing that person with a drone). Instead, the brand is testing letting users order on the app and then going to the restaurant to eat anyway. Meet Uber Eats Dine-in.

Dine-in is as contradictory as it is potentially genius — allowing Uber’s “delivery” service to take a cut on what isn’t far off from a normal restaurant experience simply by serving as a digital cashier/waiter, a nice revenue stream if you can get it. Uber Eats quietly launched the new Dine-in option — which, when available, can be found next to the Delivery and Pickup options in the app — in select cities back in November, a spokesperson confirmed to Eater. Dine-in can currently be found in Dallas, Austin, Tucson, and San Diego, giving diners the ability to “choose to sit in the restaurant to eat your food,” as Uber puts it. The option is apparently free for users, though they can choose to tip the restaurant in the app.

“We want to enable restaurants to focus on what they’re best at — making amazing food and providing top-notch service,” the spokesperson wrote to Eater, explaining that the Dine-in feature can be seen as a form of advertising that allows customers to find restaurants through the Uber app. “By allowing customers to order and pay in the app, we streamline the experience for both the customers and the restaurant.” (Of course, the cost of that streamlining likely still comes in the form of a cut of the profits from each order, as it does with delivered food.)

Speaking of customers, Dine-in has potential benefits for them, too. If you’re in a hurry or simply don’t feel like standing in line or waiting for a server, ordering ahead will definitely speed up a meal, all without ever having to reach for your wallet. (Dine-in would seem more tailor-made for quick-service restaurants than for full-service ones.) Dine-in even allows users to schedule when they want their food to be ready, meaning something like grabbing a bite before a movie should be able to go off without a hitch.

However, Dine-in has additional benefits for Uber, as well. For instance, how are you planning on getting to that restaurant? Maybe Uber can take you? Or let’s say Uber already knows you’re on the way to a restaurant: Why not order while you’re in the car? Dine-in can help further integrate Uber into an entire evening out. Now if only Uber could find a legal way to serve you a pre-dinner drink during the ride.