If you realize you’re hungry in the middle of a Lyft ride, can you ask your driver to go through a drive-thru? The quandary has plagued hungry passengers ever since the ride-hailing company was established in 2012.
But now Taco Bell has partnered with Lyft to create a feature that allows Lyft customers to request a stop at the late night fast food joint with the push of a button, Kate Taylor of Business Insider reports. Taco Mode, as the beta service is called, will be available on a trial basis in Orange County, CA from July 27-29, and again between August 3rd and 5th. It is slated to go nationwide in 2018.
“We realized that for every person who has asked their Lyft driver to make a pit stop at Taco Bell — and we’ve seen many — there are likely those who weren’t sure if this was possible,” Taco Bell CMO Marisa Thalberg said in a statement. “With the advent of this fantastic partnership with Lyft, we will erase any lingering uncertainty and celebrate the ability to ‘ride-thru’ in Taco Mode.”
Taco Mode will give customers access to a “custom, in-car” menu, and will include a “taco themed car” (whatever that means). Free Doritos Locos tacos will be on the table for Taco Mode users as well.
The service will be available between 9 p.m and 2 a.m., making it the perfect option for those who, whether due to fatigue, intoxication, or some combination of the two, are unable or unwilling to pursue more complicated avenues of obtaining food. Taco Bell serves almost 15 percent of its customers between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to Taylor, and Taco Mode will give the fast food chain another means of reaching the key late-night eater demographic.
Uber, arguably Lyft’s chief competitor in the ride-hailing space, launched its UberEats service, which allows customers to get food delivered via Uber, in August 2014. Today, it is available in 50 cities across North America, as well as in select locales in South America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa.
“The UberEATS app,” Uber’s website says, “connects you with a broad range of local restaurants and food, so you can order from the full menus of your local favorites whenever you want.” Once a customer orders, an Uber driver brings the food directly to the customer’s address, typically within 35 minutes, the site claims.
Lyft is entering the food delivery space from a different angle, and the niche is in demand amongst restaurants as well as customers.
Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol told Business Insider in April that taco delivery was the “number one request” amongst Taco Bell customers. The restaurant chain has made various efforts to fulfill that demand, including partnering with DoorDash, a service similar to UberEats, but in all cases, Niccol said, “the third party folks, the aggregators — they’re just not fast enough.” Presumably, Taco Bell declined to partner with UberEats because it, too, was not fast enough.
With Lyft’s Taco Mode, though, the food does not have to travel far before it reaches the customer’s mouth: at the most, the driver has to hand it to his fare in the back seat, who may have to wait a minute before the food is cool enough to eat.
In the food service space, Lyft is taking steps to differentiate itself from Uber. The competition increases consumers’ options: if a person gets hungry while lounging around at home watching a movie, he/she can order from UberEats. If someone wants to eat a hot meal in the car on the way home from the bar, he/she can use Lyft’s Taco Mode.
The only real downside is that Lyft drivers everywhere will end up with sauce on their seats and crumbs on their floorboards.