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Amazon Plans to Roll Out Restaurant Delivery in Cities Across the Country

Umami Burger and Baby Blues BBQ are two of the restaurants Amazon will launch with.

Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Amazon already delivers toilet paper, toys and groceries to your door. It’s now increasingly adding restaurant meals to the mix.

On Tuesday, the company is announcing that it is starting to offer restaurant delivery in the Los Angeles area through its Prime Now app, which offers one-hour delivery in more than a dozen metro areas. The restaurant-delivery unveiling in LA follows earlier launches in Seattle and Portland, with more cities to come, according to Amazon Restaurants general manager Gus Lopez.

“I’d characterize this as beyond the concept being experimental to something we’re actively growing,” Lopez told Re/code in an interview on Monday evening. Amazon plans to add the service in other cities where Prime Now is available.

The expansion of Amazon’s restaurant-delivery program highlights the company’s unwavering focus on adding more value to its Prime membership program, which offers unlimited express shipping and other perks, such as movie streaming, for $99 a year.

The Prime Now app, a subsidiary of sorts of Prime, typically offers two-hour delivery on a catalog of products that numbers in the thousands for no extra charge, and one-hour delivery for $7.99. But deliveries from restaurants do not currently carry an added delivery fee, even though they are promised within an hour. Lopez hinted that Amazon would like to make this free-delivery model work for restaurant meals.

“We intend to have [free delivery] for some time,” he said, “but we do reserve the ability to change that.”

Amazon faces a crowded field. GrubHub and its subsidiary Seamless are perhaps the best-known competitors, but there are also startups like Postmates, DoorDash, Caviar, Sprig and Munchery that either deliver meals from restaurants or ready-to-eat meals they prepare themselves. Uber also competes in the field with its UberEats offering.

Lopez said that one way Amazon will differentiate from some competitors is by being clear on pricing: There are no markups, and “no hidden service fees.” The company charges participating restaurants a percentage of sales, an amount Lopez declined to specify.

The service will launch first in Santa Monica, Culver City, West LA and Venice, with popular names including Umami Burger and Baby Blues BBQ. More neighborhoods will get the service in days to come. In neighborhoods where the service is available, customers should usually expect to see a selection of a few dozen restaurants, Lopez said.

The restaurant-delivery launch in LA comes a few weeks after four Prime Now drivers sued Amazon, claiming that they were incorrectly classified as contractors instead of employees, and should have received overtime pay and other protections. Lopez declined to comment on the litigation.

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