CHICAGO -- Back in April, when futurist Oliver Schlake told NACS State of the Industry Summit attendees in Chicago about his vision of the future, in which ride-sharing passengers visit convenience stores in the middle of their trip, I was skeptical.
Uber or Lyft passengers want to reach their destination as fast as possible, right? I for one would not want to stop anywhere until the trip was complete.
Not only was I wrong, but fate proved me wrong at breakneck speed. Lyft announced a partnership with Taco Bell on July 25, not even four months after the SOI Summit. The feature is dubbed Taco Mode, in which late-night bar goers can “ride-thru” a Taco Bell on their way home.
Meanwhile, Uber has partnered with startup Cargo to bring the c-store inside the car, albeit in a minimalist way. Cargo sends ride-share drivers in-car vending machines that the driver can use to sell passengers snacks and other items.
Both of these moves from America’s largest ride-sharing companies are bringing convenience inside the vehicle. Click through for more details on these industry-expanding moves from Uber and Lyft, and what they might mean for the convenience industry moving forward …
Lyft is going all out for Taco Mode, according to Eater. The service includes strobe lights, Taco Mode shirts, a “custom in-car menu” and a free Doritos Loco taco. To top it all off, the driver’s car avatar appears as a taco in the Lyft app.
But it will be some time before Taco Mode is released nationwide. Lyft tested the epitome of the drunk munchies in Orange County July 27-29 and again Aug. 3-5. According to a blog post, Lyft expects the service to roll out nationwide in 2018.
Plenty of Lyft drivers are not happy about the Taco Mode news. “Taco Bell tacos are notoriously messy and spill lettuce and cheese and that taco-meat juice, and you know passengers will be wiping their greasy hands on our seats,” wrote one Lyft driver on Facebook. “Lyft is setting us up to be bad guys and our cars to be trashed, and that is NOT acceptable.” Others on online ride-sharing forums and Reddit users shared similar sentiments.
Lyft has clarified that Taco Mode is entirely optional for drivers, but would you trust drunk 20-somethings in your car with Taco Bell? I wouldn’t.
Uber’s partnership with Cargo is a different kind of ride-share innovation. Cargo directly sends drivers the vending machines, which hold everything from energy drinks and snacks to hangover cures and USB cords.
The driver gets 50 cents commission for each item sold, and there’s a good chance that drivers with snacks for sale will receive a good rating from their passengers.
Cargo operates only in New York, Boston and Chicago for now, but it has requests from 49 states and it already has received $1.75 million in seed funding.
These developments are two sides of the same coin: ride-sharing companies getting into the business of convenience.
C-store owners should pay especially close attention to the outcome of Lyft’s Taco Mode. If stopping at a Taco Bell during a Lyft ride is successful, why not offer a stop at a convenience store while they’re at it? Lyft has officially opened the door to the world that Oliver Schlake described at the SOI Summit.
Cargo, on the other hand, seems as if it could steal potential c-store customers. Why would a ride-share passenger want to stop at a c-store if they can buy the same retail items without leaving their car?
While these developments may not have a visible effect on c-stores now, they are part of a larger trend of innovative companies slowly encroaching on convenience petroleum’s territory. How these moves will ultimately affect the industry remains to be seen, but Uber, Lyft and other tech companies are constantly helping to redefine convenience.