Uber Eats Makes New Rules For ‘Ghost Menus’

No more selling identical menus from 20 different brands.

March 29, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO—Uber Eats plans to remove from its app roughly 5,000 brands—13% of all virtual brands it sells through its platform, reports Business Insider. The third-party delivery company claims that some restaurants have been copying and pasting their menus in various forms as they tried to win over customers with new names or brands. In one case, one San Francisco restaurant posted its same menu 20 times under different names.

Seeing so many different versions of the same options "erodes consumer confidence,” said John Mullenholz, head of dark kitchens at Uber Eats.

Virtual brands, or ghost kitchens, prepare food for delivery and have no on-premises seating.  Some restaurants, such as Denny's and IHOP, use virtual brands to offer items that aren't on the menu of their bricks-and-mortar locations. Currently, Uber Eats offers food from roughly 40,000 virtual brands, up from 10,000 in 2021.

A ghost menu is a different concept. Instead of one kitchen making a wide variety of food—selling tacos under one brand and hamburgers under another—it’s one kitchen making the same food but with many brands. Starting next week, virtual brands on Uber Eats must include photos of five items unique to its menu. Plus, more than half of the items on each brand's menu must be different from its parent restaurant. DoorDash and Grubhub already have policies requiring that at least half of the items on a virtual menu differ from that of the physical restaurant.

Uber Eat's new requirements are part of a broader set of rules for virtual brands that the company plans to roll out this week. "Communicating—and beginning to enforce—these new quality standards for virtual restaurants on Uber Eats is an important step for our program, designed to benefit both consumers and merchants," Mullenholz said. "We took care to introduce standards that let our restaurant partners continue to flex their creativity, as we know delivery-only menus are an exciting way for operators to invest in the growth of their businesses."

Look for a story on ghost kitchens in the upcoming May 2023 issue of NACS Magazine.