DoorDash Algorithm: How Does It Work?

Here’s how the DoorDash algorithm works:

The DoorDash algorithm is massively complicated and proprietary, so only DoorDash software engineers truly know how it works.

That said, it’s safe to assume that DoorDash functions by combining user data, location data, restaurant data, and financial management tools to automate and simplify food delivery.

So if you want to learn all about DoorDash and how its algorithm works exactly, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump right into it!

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What Is DoorDash?

DoorDash is the most popular food delivery app in the United States.

So, there’s a good chance that you’ve already heard about it.

But to make sure everyone is on the same page, let’s take a minute to talk about DoorDash, what it does, and what it’s all about.

The business was founded in 2013, and from its inception, it has often been considered “the Uber of food delivery.”

Considering Uber has a food delivery app (Uber Eats), that’s quite a statement.

But, the nickname exists for a reason.

DoorDash tries to make food delivery universal and easy by implementing some of the same principles that make Uber work so well.

For instance, DoorDash uses contracted drivers to actually perform the deliveries. 

If you want to work for DoorDash, you go through the application process.

As long as you meet their requirements, you can work whatever hours you choose, and the app will match you up with orders for you to do, and you get paid by the order.

What makes DoorDash a little more interesting than ride-sharing is that it also has to partner with the businesses that actually make food (and drinks).

DoorDash is not a restaurant.

So if you order food from DoorDash, you’re involving a third party.

The app strives to make as many restaurants as possible available for service, and if you browse available establishments near you, you’ll probably see a wide range of eating options.

How Does the DoorDash Algorithm Work?

Just based on the description above, DoorDash is doing a lot.

At a software level, it has to coordinate customers, drivers, and restaurants.

It has to handle orders, display menus, route drivers, manage money, and do so much more.

Since all of this runs via software, it ultimately means that algorithms drive every operation undertaken by DoorDash.

I can try to take you through a bunch of different DoorDash algorithms in an attempt to answer your question, or, just for now, we can simplify the concept.

Let’s say that all of the different algorithms working under the hood of DoorDash combine to form a single master algorithm that runs the whole show.

That’s not necessarily a good way to think about computer programming, but it’ll be fine for this conversation.

I’m going to refer to the algorithm a lot, and I really mean the totality of all DoorDash algorithms.

With that in mind, let’s get into how it all works.

The algorithm is doing a lot of things, and the applications you care most about probably depend on whether you are ordering or delivering food.

So, let’s break it up along those lines.

Keep in mind that DoorDash has never published its algorithm.

Everything I’m going to explain is a combination of deduction (based on how computer systems work in general) and assumption.

How Does DoorDash Work for Users? (3 Ways)

Ultimately, the DoorDash algorithm is carrying out the operations that allow you to browse restaurants, place orders, complete payments, and then receive your food.

There are a lot of small pieces working together in such an operation.

So, I’m going to narrow the conversation a bit and talk about a few key points.

When you use DoorDash, you’re going to interact with the algorithm in three key ways.

You’re going to give it data.

You’re going to place orders, and you might use the tracking feature that is provided.

Let’s explore how the algorithm works with these concepts.

#1 Acquiring User Inputs

An important aspect of the DoorDash algorithm functions by acquiring user data and inputs.

Basically, you have to give it a ton of information in order for it to work.

When you first launch the app, it will ask for your address.

It will take you through preferences, and even as you place orders on the apps, it will catalog them in order to try to make informed recommendations for future orders.

Mostly, it needs your delivery address in order to figure out what restaurants are close to you and all of the delivery logistics.

But, all of that functionality only works when the app successfully collects data about you and how you use the app.

#2 Optimizing Delivery Service

When there is sufficient data, DoorDash will use its algorithm to try to optimize the entire experience.

It starts with submitting your order to the restaurant.

DoorDash works with a ridiculous number of restaurants, so there are a few different ways things can work on a technical level.

But from the user experience, when you place an order, the app should handle getting that information to the restaurant so they can make your food.

And, that’s exactly what it does.

The algorithm controls that level of communication and any automation tied to placing an order.

Similar automation controls payment processing as well.

Additionally, when you place an order, the algorithm tries to find a driver that can get to you quickly.

There are a lot of pieces of information to consider, but the most important is proximity.

The app tries to prioritize a driver who is already close to your restaurant so there will be fewer delays in getting everything to your door.

I’ll talk about how the algorithm helps your driver in a later section, but the last important aspect of the algorithm for the user experience is connecting you with your driver.

There will be direct communication between you and the person who makes the delivery, and the algorithm controls the systems that make that possible.

#3 GPS Tracking

DoorDash also has a nice little feature that allows you to track the progress of your order.

There’s a GPS tracker built into the app.

When you place the order, the app will update you on the order’s progress.

You can see a message that your order has been received by the restaurant, and it will update as they prepare the order.

Eventually, your driver will pick up the order, and then the app will allow you to see where your driver is as they drive the route to get to you.

Needless to say, all of this is controlled by the DoorDash algorithm.

The app constantly pings GPS data for the driver.

It then processes that data and displays an active location to you, so you get live or near-live tracking throughout the delivery.

It’s also worth noting that this feature is not limited to the mobile app.

If you order using the DoorDash website, this feature still works the same way.

How Does DoorDash Work For Drivers? (3 Ways)

On the flip side, the driver experience is considerably different from the customer experience.

The algorithm still uses input data from drivers, but it’s actually less important.

For the most part, the algorithm is trying to manage order pairings, locations, and money.

#1 Finding Orders

If you drive for DoorDash, then when you’re ready to make some money, you tell the app that you are available.

It will ping your location, and it will use that to pair you with orders that make the most geographical sense for you.

If you’re driving in St. Louis, it’s not going to give you orders from Kansas City.

More than that, it tries to avoid routing you to a restaurant that is across the city from your current location.

The idea is that you can get to a close restaurant faster, and that leads to better delivery time.

So, the algorithm works to match you with a hungry customer who just placed an order.

It’s going to consider other things too.

What is your customer feedback rating?

What are your average delivery times?

How long has each customer been waiting?

As an easy example, if a customer is placing an order and no one is close by, then the algorithm will eventually find a driver who isn’t nearby to take care of it.

They’re not going to leave a customer waiting for unbearable lengths of time just to save a few minutes of driving.

So to summarize, the DoorDash algorithm pairs drivers with customers once drivers make themselves available.

#2 Organizing Payments

The app also manages money.

As a driver, you are not expected to go and pay for the food when you pick it up.

Instead, DoorDash partners with restaurants to automate payments.

When you go to get food, you should be able to announce yourself and the order you are managing.

DoorDash has already paid the restaurant, so you get to pick up the food and then deliver it.

Likewise, DoorDash collects money from the customer and handles paying drivers.

Since all of this is automated, it must be controlled by the master algorithm, and that’s exactly the case.

#3 Finding Routes

The final important algorithmic function for drivers is route finding.

If you want, you can use your own navigation, but DoorDash builds navigation into the app.

The software is designed to try to give you the best possible route to the restaurant and to the customer.

This helps to minimize delivery times.

It also minimizes the gas used by drivers, helping the entire system to run more efficiently.