Uber Eats Algorithm: How Does It Work?

Here’s how the Uber Eats algorithm works:

There’s a lot going on with the Uber Eats Algorithm. 

It handles every single interaction within the app, which impacts users, drivers, and restaurants. 

It coordinates every single delivery, processes every payment, manages restaurant listings on the app, and sorts data in order to streamline as much as possible.

So if you want to learn all about how Uber Eats’ algorithm works, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

Uber Eats Algorithm: How Does It Work? (All the Info)

What Is Uber Eats?

You probably already know what Uber is.

It’s a pretty recognizable brand around at least half of the world. 

Uber Eats is made by the same people, and it’s an “Uber” take on food delivery. 

Food delivery has risen dramatically in popularity over the last few years, and Uber Eats has been there to supply a lot of the demand.

The Uber Eats platform was launched in 2014.

It’s designed to be a one-stop-shop for ordering food directly to your current location. 

You can browse restaurants and menus, order, pay, and receive your food, all from a few taps. 

It’s universal and easy, and you can use it on all of the major software platforms. 

You can even get on a browser on your computer and use Uber Eats.

Ultimately, Uber Eats supplies three different experiences, and we’re going to have to go through all of them to really answer your question about the algorithm and how it works. 

Obviously, users have an experience with ordering and receiving food. 

Since Uber Eats is based on the concept of ride-sharing, the drivers have their own experiences. 

On top of that, Uber Eats partners with restaurants, creating the third experience tied to the app.

How Does the Uber Eats Algorithm Work?

As I just mentioned, there are three different experiences at play. 

Before getting into those designations, we can first look at the general mechanisms of the Uber Eats algorithm.

Since Uber Eats is ultimately a software platform, it means that algorithms are actually controlling everything. 

From navigation to displaying menus and processing money, it’s all controlled by algorithms. 

You can’t interact with the app in any way that doesn’t invoke an algorithm of some kind.

Now, Uber Eats is pretty complicated software, so a very large number of different algorithms are running at any given time. 

Odds are that you didn’t come here to discuss a single algorithm that was on your mind. 

Instead, you’re probably thinking about the totality of the software as a single, overarching algorithm that controls the whole app. 

That’s a fair way to think about it, and that’s how I’m going to treat the idea moving forward.

Even though it’s not technically right, I’ll refer to the “uber eats algorithm” as a conceptual totality of everything controlling the software.

All of that said, we can now dive deeper into the specifics of how the algorithm works.

How Does the Uber Eats Algorithm Interact with Restaurants?

I’m going to lead off with the restaurant experience because it’s a little simpler (even though it’s still quite complicated under the surface). 

Uber Eats essentially partners with businesses in order to set everything up.

The entire restaurant menu is uploaded to Uber Eats, along with pricing, business hours, and everything else a customer would need to know in order to place an order.

When everything is added to Uber Eats, the algorithm works with restaurants in two key ways.

It processes orders, and it handles money.

For order processing, whenever a customer places an order on the app, it automatically notifies the establishment about that order. 

When the establishment confirms that the order has been received, the app automatically updates that information and relays it to the customer (more on that in a bit). 

Essentially, the algorithm informs the establishment that they have an order so they can start food preparation.

Simultaneously, Uber Eats handles the money for all orders on the app. 

When a customer places their order, they are charged by Uber Eats. 

Payment is confirmed before the app sends the order to the restaurant. 

The pay is collected, and Uber ultimately pays the restaurant for their part in the overall process. 

The app uses direct deposit to transfer money to partnered restaurants every week.

All of these actions are controlled by the algorithm.

How Does the Uber Eats Algorithm Interact With Users? (3 Ways)

The user experience is considerably different, and you’ll see that in a number of important ways. 

The user aspects of the algorithm are designed to present food options to users, streamline their orders, and process payment, but in this case, payment processing is very different from the restaurant experience.

#1 User Inputs

When you use Uber Eats as a customer, you have to physically interact with the app in order to make it work. 

Using swipes, taps, or mouse controls, you can navigate food options, compare selections, and place orders. 

But, in order for you to control Uber Eats, the algorithm has to interact with you.

The algorithm is responsible for every response the app has to your inputs. 

If you tap on a restaurant to view the menu, the algorithm is responsible for the changes on your screen.

On top of that, the algorithm is constantly processing data. 

If you order from the same restaurant every Friday, the app is going to notice that, and it’s going to recommend that restaurant to you. 

If you have favorite menu items, the app will put them at the top of your options when you order.

Additionally, you have to provide information just to use the app. 

It’s ultimately designed to process money, so you have to supply contact and financial information to participate. 

The algorithm uses that data to process payments when you place an order.

As you can see, the algorithm is always hard at work, and it’s using all of your inputs to function.

#2 Optimization of the Experience

For the user experience, the algorithm does a lot more than suggest food and take money. 

It also has to arrange the delivery, and that’s a major component of the algorithm’s workload.

One of the key functions is finding the right driver to actually deliver your food. 

A lot of information goes into this selection. 

Naturally, Uber Eats is trying to get a driver who is close by to lower delivery times. 

But, the app is also considering driver satisfaction ratings and average delivery times. 

The app is trying to optimize your whole experience, not just how long it takes for food to arrive.

On top of that, the app has to manage communication between you and your driver. 

When you place an order, you get status updates. 

The app is managing those updates.

It’s enabling your driver to let you know if there are delays or unexpected problems with the order.

There’s also an option for contactless delivery. 

So, the app allows a driver to tell you when the food has been dropped off, so you don’t have to do a face-to-face exchange.

Again, it’s all run by the algorithm.

#3 GPS

We’re still not done with the user experience.

There’s also a handy feature that lets you track your food through its entire journey. 

When you place your order, the tracker will let you know that the restaurant has been informed. 

It updates when the food is complete and again when the driver picks up the order for delivery.

You can even watch the driver head to your location in real-time with the tracker.

As you can imagine, the algorithm is doing a lot just to manage this feature. 

In addition to communicating with all three parties involved in a delivery, it’s running this feature, communicating with GPS signals, and updating statuses.

How Does the Uber Eats Algorithm Interact With Drivers? (3 Things)

We could spend a month going over every minute algorithmic function between users and Uber Eats, but those are the main ones. 

It’s time to cover the driver experience.

Once again, this experience is completely different. 

For the most part, the algorithm is trying to pair drivers with customers, handle money, and route the drivers in the best way possible.

#1 Finding Orders

To make this a little easier to explain, let’s say that you just became an Uber Eats driver. 

You’re ready to earn a little cash, so you make yourself available on the app. 

When you do this, the app reads your current location. 

That’s important for figuring out which orders are best routed to you.

If you’re on the north end of town, the app isn’t going to send you five miles south of town for one delivery (unless there are absolutely no better options). 

It wants to be more efficient than that. 

If it’s constantly pulling drivers from too far away to pick up orders, then delivery times go up, and the cost of delivery goes up too.

So, the algorithm is trying to find a hungry person who placed an order that is near you. 

It’s not as concerned with the customer being near you. 

The algorithm wants the restaurant making the food to be close to you. 

That’s where optimization is at its best.

On top of that, the algorithm considers driver ratings. 

If a customer gave you a bad rating before, the algorithm is going to avoid pairing you with them again.

If they gave you five stars and requested that you always be their driver, the app will take that into consideration.

#2 Managing Money

Finding orders is just part of the driver equation. 

The app has to manage money here too. 

I’ve already talked about how it works with customers and restaurants. 

The only thing to add here is that drivers also get paid, and the payment is partially based on the distance traveled to complete the order.

This goes back to the previous section. 

If Uber Eats is sending people across the city just to get to the restaurant, it increases the cost of the transaction. 

So to optimize the customer experience, it tries to minimize these distances.

As far as paying drivers, the algorithm handles that too. 

Drivers can cash out whatever they are owed whenever they like. 

As long as the account has at least $1 in it, the driver can cash it out, and they can do it up to five times a day.

Uber Eats uses direct deposit for these payments too. 

So, the algorithm is keeping track of how much you earn as a driver when you request a payout, and the process to deliver payment to you.

#3 Selecting Delivery Routes

Lastly, the algorithm tells drivers where to go. 

This is probably the most obvious aspect of the algorithm, but it’s still incredibly complicated. 

At any moment, Uber Eats is coordinating tens of thousands of drivers in cities across the world. 

Suffice it to say that it’s a big job, and the algorithm is very sophisticated to successfully manage it all.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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