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GrubHub IPOs: Thoughts About GrubHub and the ‘Food’ Segment

By: 4 April 2014

photo courtesy of Crain’s Chicago Business

All eyes are on “local” this morning on Wall Street, with GrubHub‘s IPO off to a great start. The company has placed 7.4 million shares priced at $26, or $192.4 million. The shares closed at $34.

We’ve been watching GrubHub’s IPO with real interest. The Chicago-based online take out ordering company — which merged last August with Seamless, its primary competitor — represents a key local “food” anchor, along with Open Table, UrbanSpoon, Groupon (reservations); Yelp and Google+ (reviews); and eventually, Amazon, WalMart, Google,eBay, TBD (grocery delivery).

It has 28.8K restaurants and 135,000 daily orders. Forty-three percent of its activity now takes place from mobile devices, a key metric in this space which relies on impulse purchasing. The company has operations in most major U.S. cities, but is strongly penetrated in several.

In this area, which might loosely be termed as “food,” the silos are falling fast — they each do a little of each. We expect to see a major land grab by the key players that are already in the space, and the possible addition of other tech and retail players.

At its most basic level, GrubHub views, confirms and tracks food orders, It makes its money from commissions of roughly 10-12 percent. Last year, it made $137 million. But the company’s value extends beyond order taking. It acts as a giant search and discovery engine that can bring customers back to locations, and recommend others when they are in the mood for something else.

The cost to use GrubHub is relatively high. There have been anecdotes in the press about some restaurants quitting GrubHub, seeing a drop in orders, but making higher profits. Obviously, these reports are not the general consensus, as the company continues to grow.

But the best way for restaurants to justify its cost is if they chalk it off as a promotional expense. GrubHub executives like to point out that it is ultimately cheaper and more retentive to spend on GrubHub than on a deals site such as Groupon, with its high commission structure taking 30-50 percent, on top of high discounting off menu prices.

While GrubHub has a nice lead in this space for now, the key for it now will be to extend its brand and reach. Its brand awareness remains low, and it is mostly known among niches such as office workers and college students. The company’s current competitors include Delivery.com, which claims a roster of almost 10,000 restaurants in 50 cities; and Eat24.com, which covers 20,000 restaurants in 1,000 cities across the country.

We’ll be watching for activity from companies such as Yelp, Google and other players too, either via start up or acquisition.


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