Über Eats has just celebrated its fifth anniversary in Japan, its eighth global market.
As in other markets it started focusing on restaurants. In Japan these were in up-market districts of Tokyo like Aoyama and Akasaka.
Now the business claims to cover all 47 prefectures, facilitated by 100,000 delivery riders.
Über Eats is steadily eating into the lunch and dinner business of Japan’s numerous convenience stores and supermarkets. In 2019 Über Eats started working with Lawson and now delivers from around 2000 of their stores including Natural Lawson.
Expansion outside restaurants is handled by a ‘new verticals’ business unit. Interestingly for Japan, this business unit is run by a female Russian computer science graduate who later studied in Japan.
At a time when much of Japan struggles to transform digitally, Über Eats threatens the status quo. Some will remember last year leading CVS chain 7-Eleven stumbled face first with its launch of 7-Pay. Put simply its tech was not up to scratch.
The ‘new verticals’ business is now working with drug stores as well as off-licence chains.
As often happens when individuals change habits fundamentally, there is no return. Whilst Über Eats Japan customers were initially singles and wealthy couples, families are increasingly switching over. Of course the pandemic has accelerated the shift.
It has not all been easy running for Über. As in Britain, the company faces the challenges of how to manage labour unions. One of the union’s first demands in Japan was extended accident insurance.
Typically most companies in Japan do everything in-house. If I was running one of the big retailers here I would want to rethink that policy before there’s a fundamental sea change. It may well transpire that Lawson’s early decision to work with Über Eats was fortuitous.