There’s no serious question that mobile-friendly food delivery apps make quality restaurant meals more accessible for all. Independent restaurants that can’t afford to keep delivery personnel on staff (or that don’t want to deal with the added complexity) now turn to ubiquitous apps like DoorDash and Grubhub, which also happen to offer diners a substantial number of restaurant choices.
In the United States, a handful of nationwide apps with hundreds of thousands of restaurant partners — DoorDash, Postmates, UberEats, Grubhub, and Seamless — dominate the food delivery game.
None radically depart from the others. Though each app has a distinct appearance and some exclusive restaurant partners, the user’s experience is more or less consistent for each. Despite some variation in fee structure and promotional deals and allowing for user discretion on the tipping front, total delivery costs are broadly similar as well.
The real differences are in the details: what you get for a monthly subscription (if available), whether you can track your driver in real time, and what else is available on the app besides prepared food. These differences manifest as distinct advantages and disadvantages that could influence your choice — or preference if you’re among the multitudes of frequent in-home diners who use more than one food delivery app.
DoorDash has more than 300,000 local restaurant partners in the U.S. and Canada. Delivery personnel, known as “dashers,” operate in virtually every major North American city (and a fair number of smaller cities across the continent, including many college towns).
Although it focuses primarily on restaurant delivery, DoorDash also offers grocery delivery in select markets, muscling in on Instacart’s turf. Pickup is available from select restaurants, though availability varies widely by market. And a partnership with Chase’s credit card division is potentially lucrative for DoorDash customers who link their Chase cards to their DoorDash accounts.
If you’re looking for an opportunity to earn extra cash in your spare time, read our review of the DoorDash dasher experience.
DoorDash’s key features include a subscription service, restaurant pickup and grocery delivery in some areas, and a credit card partnership.
- DashPass. DashPass is DoorDash’s monthly subscription service. For $9.99 per month, users pay no delivery fees on orders greater than $12. Though delivery fees vary somewhat, the breakeven point is usually no more than two orders per month. The subscription renews monthly, and you can cancel it without penalty at any time.
- Pickup Option at Select Restaurants. DoorDash offers in-store pickup at select restaurants. Coverage varies by market, but you can expect many if not most of your favorites to allow pickup.
- Referral Bonus. DoorDash users receive credits for referring up to 25 new customers to the app. The payout varies by region and is subject to change at DoorDash’s discretion, but at minimum, the program offers small rewards for pointing your friends and family to DoorDash.
- Grocery Delivery Option. DoorDash offers limited grocery delivery in select markets. This service appears to be in its infancy, and it’s not clear when or if its coverage will expand, so don’t be surprised if the option doesn’t appear in your app.
- Chase Credit Card Partnership. Certain Chase credit card users enjoy exclusive rewards and benefits with DoorDash. Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders earn 5 points per $1 spent on eligible DoorDash orders (a value of $0.075 per point at redemption). They also get a complimentary subscription to DashPass for at least 12 months from activation and earn up to $120 in DoorDash credits over two years ($60 in 2020 and $60 in 2021). Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cardholders get 5% cash back on eligible DoorDash orders and free or discounted DashPass subscriptions during the first year after activation.
DoorDash’s subscription program proves beneficial to frequent orderers, but there’s also a potentially lucrative advantage for Chase credit cardholders.
- DashPass Is a Good Deal for Frequent Users. DashPass users rarely need more than two orders per month to break even on the subscription. If you already order in at least once every couple of weeks, that’s easy enough to accomplish.
- Credit Card Partnerships Could Be Lucrative. Millions of Chase credit card users are eligible for free or subsidized DashPass subscriptions and bonus earnings on eligible DoorDash spending. If you’re a frequent DoorDash user, this benefit alone could justify adding a participating card to your rotation.
Not all of DoorDash’s features are available nationwide.
- Grocery Delivery Option Only Available in Select Markets. Don’t expect much from DoorDash’s grocery delivery service. For now, Instacart is a much more reliable alternative.
Postmates delivers more than just restaurant food. Depending on where you live, you can line up grocery, dry goods, and alcohol delivery through Postmates as well. It’s a stretch to say that Postmates stands up to Instacart, the gold standard in grocery delivery, but it’s as close as a restaurant-first delivery app comes to being all-purpose.
Postmates has plenty of benefits, including a monthly subscription service that’s significantly cheaper when you pay for a full year upfront and free delivery on orders over $10 from trending restaurants. Postmates also claims to complete deliveries in an hour or less, though this promise isn’t always borne out by reality.
Postmates’ differentiators include widespread grocery and alcohol delivery, a subscription service, and value-added features like Postmates Party and Postmates Events.
- Grocery and Nonperishable Delivery. In addition to restaurant delivery, Postmates offers grocery and dry goods delivery from participating merchants. Coverage and participating merchants vary by city and region, but you can expect to find a mix of national grocery chains, independent supermarkets and bodegas, drugstores, and convenience stores.
- Alcohol Delivery. In markets where alcohol delivery is legal, Postmates offers that too.
- Pickup Option at Select Merchants. Postmates permits pickup at participating merchants. This option is less pervasive on Postmates than DoorDash or UberEats, so don’t expect your favorite restaurants or retailers to be on board.
- Postmates Unlimited. Postmates Unlimited is Postmates’ monthly subscription service. For $9.99 per month or $99.99 when paid annually, Unlimited subscribers pay no delivery fees on orders over $12. According to Postmates, subscribers break even after the second order each month. Unlimited subscribers also enjoy exclusive access to Postmates Events, which include reserved ticket blocks at sold-out public events and behind-the-scenes meet-and-greet opportunities.
- Postmates Party. Postmates Party is a free feature that promises free delivery on orders over $10 from an ever-changing lineup of “trending” restaurants. Selection is wildly variable by market and timing, so it’s difficult to plan Postmates Party orders too far in advance, but the savings make up for it.
Postmates’ top advantages include the wider variety of items available for delivery, good value for subscribers, and wide merchant selection.
- More Than Just Restaurant Delivery. Postmates is not only a restaurant delivery app. It’s also a grocery, dry goods, and alcohol delivery app — one with very impressive coverage in major and not-so-major U.S. cities.
- Postmates Unlimited Is an Excellent Deal. Postmates Unlimited is an exceptional deal for Postmates loyalists thanks to the subsidized annual subscription (which basically includes two free months each year) and exclusive or preferred access to hot-ticket events.
- Very Wide Selection. Postmates has more than 600,000 restaurants in its database — more than any other major delivery app.
Postmates’ promise of delivery in under an hour isn’t always the reality.
- One-Hour Delivery Claim Is Unreliable. Postmates doesn’t (and can’t) always make good on its promise to complete deliveries in an hour or less. That isn’t entirely Postmates’ fault. It’s just not possible during periods of peak demand, when restaurant errors are more likely, or when snarled traffic holds up drivers, which occurs in many cities just as the dinner rush begins. But it’s probably best for Postmates not to make this claim at all.
UberEats can credibly bill itself as “the Uber of food delivery apps” because it’s owned and operated by the company behind the ubiquitous ridesharing app. However, much to the chagrin of its users, it’s not part of the ridesharing app itself — ridesharing fans still need to download and install it separately.
But that’s a relatively trivial inconvenience. Otherwise, UberEats is an excellent addition to your food delivery lineup thanks to an unusually generous monthly subscription service that shines on larger orders, a bespoke rewards program, and a real-time driver tracking app, which doesn’t come as a surprise from the maker of a ridesharing app.
UberEats’ notable features include a generous subscription service and rewards program and real-time tracking of your order.
- Eats Pass. Eats Pass is UberEats’ monthly subscription service. For $9.99 per month, you get unlimited free delivery and 5% off orders over $15. Eats Pass renews monthly, and you can cancel it without penalty at any time.
- Uber Rewards. Uber Rewards is a free rewards program that pays 1 point per $1 in eligible UberEats purchases, 2 points per $1 spent on UberPool rides, and 3 points per $1 spent on eligible Uber Black rides. Redeem 500 points for a $5 cash reward.
- Pickup Option at Select Restaurants. UberEats allows pickup at select restaurants. Though subject to variation by region and restaurant type, coverage is relatively broad, increasing the chances your favorite restaurants offer pickup.
- Real-Time Driver Tracking. Like the Uber ridesharing app, UberEats has a real-time driver tracking function that lets you monitor your driver’s progress as they approach your location.
UberEats’ top advantages include real-time visibility into drivers’ movements and rewards on all eligible purchases.
- Better Visibility Into Drivers’ Movements. UberEats’ driver tracking feature is a cut above competing apps’. The ability to track your driver in real time (or near real time) allows you to correct mistakes, like a wrong turn, before they cost you both valuable time.
- Rewards on Eligible Purchases. Uber Rewards effectively reduces the net cost of your UberEats deliveries by one cent on the dollar. That adds up over time, especially for loyal users.
- Eats Pass Is a Good Deal on Larger Orders. Eats Pass users pay no delivery fees on orders over $15, but that’s only half the story. Eats Pass also promises 5% off orders over $15, which amounts to $5 off every $100 ordered. If you have a big family or routinely order for large groups, you can rack up the savings with ease.
UberEats doesn’t integrate seamlessly with the Uber ridesharing app, a notable disadvantage.
- Two Apps to Download. UberEats users need to download, install, and open the app separately from the Uber ridesharing app. It’s an inconvenience one imagines could be solved by a creative development team.
Grubhub & Seamless
Grubhub and Seamless aren’t quite a two-for-one deal. They’re distinct apps you must download and install separately. But they have the same parent company, and their apps are very similar, so they’re more or less interchangeable for most users.
Both Grubhub and Seamless have generous monthly subscription programs — the best in the business for customers who frequently post larger orders, thanks to a 10% cash-back deal. All users enjoy complimentary perks from participating restaurants as well, most often in the form of $5 discounts on orders of any size. Priority customer service is a nice touch as well.
Key features of Seamless and Grubhub include their subscription services, priority customer service for subscribers, exclusive perks for users, and referral programs.
- Seamless+ and Grubhub+. Seamless and Grubhub both have monthly subscription services: Seamless+ and Grubhub+. Each costs $9.99 per month, and you can cancel them without penalty at any time. The benefits are identical as well: unlimited free delivery and 10% cash back on all orders at eligible restaurants, which are clearly marked in the apps (and you can filter for them in the apps’ search functions).
- Priority Customer Service for Seamless+ and Grubhub+ Customers. Grubhub+ and Seamless+ subscribers enjoy priority customer service from a team of exclusive representatives.
- Seamless Perks and Grubhub Perks. Both apps offer free “perks” at participating restaurants. Most often, the perk is $5 off your order, but greater savings is possible. Coverage varies by market and isn’t always widespread, so don’t expect a discount on orders from your favorite restaurant.
Seamless and Grubhub shine with 10% cash back for subscribers and targeted deals.
- 10% Cash Back and Priority Customer Service With Seamless+ and Grubhub+. With unlimited free delivery and 10% cash back on all orders, Seamless+ and Grubhub+ have the most potential value of any restaurant delivery app subscription plan. If there’s a catch, it’s that fewer restaurants participate in the plans than in other apps’ subscription offerings.
- Targeted Deals With Perks Programs. These apps’ free perks programs offer enticing savings with few or no strings attached. Though more generous offers sometimes have order minimums, the most common offer is $5 off, regardless of size.
Seamless and Grubhub have less selection than some competing apps. Their subscription programs are redundant too.
- Less Selection Than Some Other Apps. Though the number of participating restaurants is still quite large, Seamless and Grubhub have thinner coverage than their competitors. If you consistently struggle to find your favorites on Seamless or Grubhub, add another app to your rotation.
- Seamless+ and Grubhub+ Are Redundant. Despite their obvious value, Seamless+ and Grubhub+ are redundant. Most users probably only need one or the other, not both.
I’ve had the pleasure of using multiple restaurant delivery apps over the past few years. Despite the occasional subpar experience, including one instance when I had to drive to the restaurant to pick up an order the driver had apparently absconded with, my overall impression of each app is far more favorable than my overall impression of on-staff restaurant delivery.
As a former on-staff delivery driver, it gives me no pleasure to say that. But restaurant delivery apps are simply better at getting food where it needs to go in a reasonable amount of time and with fewer preventable mistakes.
That means you can’t go wrong with any of the major apps. The app you end up using the most will probably be the app that features more of your favorite restaurants or offers the best subscription plan for your needs.
What’s your favorite food delivery app? Have you had a negative experience with any?