Digital Food & Beverage 2019

July 15 - 17, 2019

Hyatt Regency Austin, TX

1 (888) 482.6012

"Alexa, order me dinner": How Grubhub is using Data and Alexa to Deliver On-time

brought to you by WBR Insights



Digital takeout ordering systems have taken off in a big way in recent years. However, US trailblazer Grubhub isn't resting on its laurels, and is looking for new technology to further improve the experience for its customers.

Grubhub was founded in Chicago by friends Mike Evans and Matt Maloney in 2004, after becoming tired of having to keep a range of paper takeout menus on file. Two years later, the partners had won first place in the University of Chicago Booth School of Business's Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge with their innovative business plan for a digital takeout ordering service. In 2014, Grubhub began offering a proprietary delivery service for restaurants which didn't offer one themselves.

Since then, Grubhub has grown exponentially, and now employs over 1,500 people. The company has revenues of $576 million and was placed at #24 on the Fortune 100 Fastest Growing Companies list.

Digital Takeout

What sets Grubhub aside from its competition is the sheer volume of digital technology it employs to drive business.

The company uses big data collected from tens of thousands of daily order reviews, individual order history, and more, to offer bespoke recommendations to its customers. The idea behind it is to put the right restaurant in front of the right person at the right time, to make sure there's always something tempting on offer. Once a restaurant has been selected, that same data is used to suggest popular dishes curated from diners with similar tastes.

(Video source: youtube.com)

Starting with 2016/2017, Grubhub has also been putting forward an initiative named "A Year in Delivery", which aims to provide an easily-digestible annual analysis of the delivery trends of the preceding year.

"We are always looking to use our data to play back insights about big society moments impacting our users' eating behaviors," said Barbara Martin Coppola, Grubhub's Chief Marketing Officer. "With 'A Year in Delivery', we're excited to look back at the interesting and unexpected trends for what was a tumultuous year! Whether it was times of joy, sadness or stress, our data showed that food was always there for our users."

Some of the more interesting findings from the initiative include a 36% spike in hot dog orders in Chicago on the day the Cubs won, an increase in tomato soup orders of 230% during Storm Jonas, and a spike in clam chowder orders during President Obama's final State of the Union address.

Amazon Alexa

Grubhub also offers its users a way to order takeaway without lifting a finger or thumb. With a bespoke skill available for Amazon's Alexa device, customers can now order their favorite takeout using only their voice.

While not quite offering the full Grubhub experience, customers can nonetheless ask Alexa to recite their last three orders and then reorder one of them with a voice command. Prompts, such as, "Alexa, open Grubhub", or, "Alexa, tell Grubhub I'm hungry" activate the system, and, once the order is placed, Alexa will communicate an estimated delivery time. To help promote the new Alexa functionality, Grubhub offered a sweepstakes to its customers. Customers who ordered three times in March 2017 using the Alexa skill were automatically entered for a chance to win a $500 Grubhub gift card.

"We're always looking for new ways to evolve the ordering process so that our diners can order the food they want from their favorite local restaurants, however they would want to order it," said Sudev Balakrishnan, Senior Vice President of Product at Grubhub. "With the new Alexa skill, we're thrilled to offer added convenience to our diners, allowing them to quickly reorder using their voice."

Voice control is due to become an ever-larger part of our digital experiences, and we can expect to see more companies finding ways to integrate it into their services as time goes on.

Final Thoughts

With innovative use of big data and the Alexa skill, Grubhub is demonstrating its commitment to continuing to revolutionize the digital takeout market. As more and more technology is developed, we can expect to see increased options when it comes to ordering our favorite foods.

The final word goes to Rob Pulciani, Director of Amazon Alexa.

"Ordering meals with only your voice is one of the more popular capabilities on Alexa. Customers love how convenient it is to simply ask Alexa to place an order for delivery. I'm excited that customers can now reorder from Grubhub's network of 50,000-plus restaurants, giving them even more choices as to where their next breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack will come from."


Digital takeout ordering is set to be a hot topic at Digital Food & Beverage 2018 this July in Chicago, IL.

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