DoorDash, going beyond food delivery, will soon bring you alcohol

DoorDash started off as a restaurant delivery company — but, like many on-demand delivery companies, its ambitions are certainly much higher than that. And it’s taking one step beyond food delivery today by adding the ability to purchase alcohol through DoorDash.

While DoorDash may have already delivered food from breweries or restaurants that offer paired food, it still wasn’t able to deliver alcohol. It’s now running a pilot service for the delivery in southern California and hopes to expand that delivery service soon after to its existing markets. You could think of something like this being useful in the case of ordering food from a restaurant that might go well with beer or wine, or ordering it en masse for an event.

“As we started talking to our merchants about it, they loved this idea of pairing their most popular dishes with specific types of alcohol,” DoorDash head of business development Prahar Shah said “Merchants got really excited, and we at DoorDash have always said we’re more than a food delivery company — it just happens to be the first vertical to focus on. This felt very natural.”

This isn’t the first time DoorDash has made a step outside its typical restaurant delivery focus. In September last year, the company partnered with 7-Eleven to deliver products to its users from those stores. These are all more or less dipping toes into new markets, but each represents a potentially significant new source of business. There wasn’t one particular segment of DoorDash’s user base that was specifically asking for alcohol delivery, with interest in it ranging across a wider demographic — which might speak to the opportunity a new addition like this has.

One of the obvious challenges for launching alcohol delivery was making sure everything would run smoothly and legally. To do that, DoorDash first ensures that its delivery personnel are over 21, and then also tries to ensure that the people ordering are also over 21. But there’s another element that went into the development as well: DoorDash had to build a whole new payment flow, ensuring the company it’s working with is the merchant of record for the transaction.

golden road photos appThere’s another requirement here that the team acknowledges: selection. It’s important to make sure that each user has the option to choose the kind of beer, wine or hard liquor they like, or it might turn them off from the experience and make them drift toward other services that have a wider array of drinks to choose from. That was also part of the initial feedback that sparked the work on alcohol delivery, with people using both DoorDash and an accompanying app for the alcohol delivery, Shah said.

If all goes well, DoorDash will be going up against several other on-demand alcohol delivery startups like Saucey, which raised $4.5 million in September, and Thirstie. The trick will be to continue expanding into its existing new markets and getting ahead of that competition by both selling it as part of the DoorDash experience and leaning on its existing delivery infrastructure.

“DoorDash is known for food delivery,” he said. “We wanted to extend that core functionality and augment that core experience that pairs really well with food. We don’t think socks and shoes pair as well with food as well as alcohol does.”