I raced UberEats to McDonald’s and back — this is who won

It would take you just about as long to drive and get your own McDonald’s as it would by ordering via UberEats.

Food delivery apps like UberEats and Mr D Food have surged in popularity in South Africa over the last few years.

UberEats is currently available in 30 cities and towns across 7 of the country’s provinces, while Mr D Food is operating in around 23 cities and towns across all provinces.

One of Uber’s biggest rivals on the ride-hailing front, Bolt, is also trying to stake a claim in this space, with impressive growth in Cape Town and a recent expansion into Johannesburg.

These apps make it convenient to get food delivered to your door and often do so with a quick turnaround.

MyBroadband previously raced UberEats to a Rocomamas to see if ordering through the app was faster than going to the restaurant ourselves. We lost that race by 3 minutes.

However, since that time, the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred growth in customers and demand for UberEats.

We were curious to see whether UberEats could keep up the pace and beat us again, particularly given the bigger pool of customers they now serve.

For our test, we ordered from a McDonald’s that was about 4km away from a friend’s apartment.

That would give us a chance of beating the driver that might already be near the establishment at the time of our order.

Furthermore, we ordered the same set of items in both cases — a McChicken meal and a double cheeseburger — to ensure similar meal preparation times.

Here is how the race went down.

  • 20:03 — Friend places UberEats order, and I exit their apartment at the same time to drive to McDonald’s.
  • 20:04 — Order ready to be picked up and UberEats driver’s details provided. I had not even exited the complex gate at this point.
  • 20:12 — I arrive at the McDonald’s. There are plenty of UberEats and Mr D Food drivers in the parking area. My friend says their app shows the Uber driver does not appear to have moved from the location.
  • 20:14 — First in line, I use the self-service kiosk to place my order, figuring it would be fairer than going for the drive-thru. Two UberEats drivers are picking up orders around the same time.
  • 20:18 — My order is ready. I pick it up, and I rush to my car. The two UberEats drivers are outside chatting with other delivery drivers.
  • 20:19 — The UberEats app now also shows my friend’s order is on its way. While driving, I notice a Toyota Corolla that seems to be following my every turn. I accelerate. Responsibly.
  • 20:27 — I drive into the complex. About 5 seconds later, the Uber driver arrived with my friend’s order.

Win by a mile or an inch, winning is winning, but to UberEats’ credit, the food still arrived 8 minutes before the original estimated time of arrival (ETA) of 20:35.

That means it took 23 minutes from placing the order to delivery.

The screenshots below show moments during the UberEats order’s progress, including order placement, pickup, and delivery times.

There was a substantial difference in the pricing of the orders.

The UberEats order cost R126.29, including a R9.00 delivery fee and R5.59 service fee. The food on its own cost R111.70.

Buying directly from McDonald’s cost me R93, about 17% cheaper when excluding the delivery and service fees.

That does not consider my fuel costs, but you would have to drive a very thirsty vehicle to make up the difference of R33.29 with the fuel expenses over a total distance of 8km.

On the other side, you could also argue the premium is fair given the time saved, which could be better spent watching an episode of your favourite sitcom.

Now read: 942 takeout orders in a year — Bolt Food’s biggest spenders revealed

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I raced UberEats to McDonald’s and back — this is who won