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Peak Food-Delivery Bubble? Groupon Gets Into the Act.

We are a hungry people.

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.

We are a hungry people. And damn it, we just cannot for the life of us have enough options for getting food from a restaurant into our salivating mouths.

Luckily, the heavens produced GrubHub and Seamless and And then DoorDash and Postmates and Caviar. Oh, and Uber with its new UberEats service. There’s Eat24, which Yelp gobbled up, and Tapingo to feed the college masses. And there’s also that test Amazon is running in Seattle, which is a little weird but we’ll take it, because we are so, so hungry. But sometimes you kinda feel like ordering a meal from a restaurant that doesn’t actually have seating — a place that’s all delivery all the time. Munchery and Sprig can help you out with that.

Still, maybe, just maybe, we the hungry people of the United States need one more delivery option. It turns out Groupon has our backs.

The company still best known for its daily deals said on Thursday that it was launching its own restaurant delivery and pick-up service, starting in Chicago and then expanding to other cities this year. Some of the better known partners participating in the program are the sandwich shops Quiznos and Subway, along with Popeye’s and Papa John’s. Hundreds of local Chicago restaurants are taking part, too. The announcement comes shortly after Groupon acquired OrderUp, a food delivery startup that’s live in dozens of smaller cities.

Groupon’s pitch to us, the hungry people: A 10 percent discount on all orders. Groupon is taking the hit on this, not the restaurant, and essentially looks at it as a marketing expense.

Groupon’s pitch to Wall Street (and reporters): We already have relationships with a whole lot of restaurants and we have 25 million people coming to our site or app each month. Why not connect the two in a new way? Plus, a new service means more businesses joining Groupon’s marketplace of offers, which CEO Eric Lefkofsky still insists has the chance to become the first place shoppers turn to when they want to do any type of activity in their city or town. Groupon will take a small cut of each purchase that it says is in line with other similar services. Let’s call it 10 percent, give or take a few percentage points in either direction.

“This expands the number of ways that restaurants can work with Groupon,” a rep said. “Some restaurants want to do deals every day of the week, some restaurants want to fill only certain reservation times, some want to offer a delivery and takeout deal every day of the week, some want to offer market-rate delivery and takeout on the weekends.”

It is true that Groupon has a relationship with more local brick-and-mortar businesses than just about any consumer company out there. But it’s going to take a whole lot of marketing and awareness to get people to think of Groupon, daily-deal purveyor, as Groupon, food-delivery service.

It’s also tough to look at the new service without getting a me-too, late-to-the-game feeling. The D word — desperation — may be too strong, but Groupon’s stock is the lowest it has been in 30 months, at less than $5 a share. And it’s clear the company is searching for what’s next.

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