Meet Ben at Uber Eats

Ben Woodward, the Territory Operations Manager (South Coast) for Uber Eats, brings a wealth of experience from the airline, travel and customer service industry. In our recent meeting, he shared insights into his fascinating background and shed light on what he admires most about this city and his favourite restaurants in Brighton. With his unique perspective and passion for the area, Ben continues to make a significant impact on the local food delivery scene, establishing relationships with big Brighton brands ensuring efficient and reliable service for all.

Please can you share a whistle-stop tour of your career?

The majority of my career was spent in the Airline and Travel industry, working my way from frontline Customer Service, to Head of Customer Operations, via a few years in Revenue Management, Logistics and Customer Success.

After becoming redundant during Covid, and in order to keep myself busy in between jobs, I got on my bicycle and delivered food for a well known food delivery company around Brighton (the other one!).

After a few months trying to get used to working in a fully remote role back for an airline services company, I received a Linkedin message from Uber Eats offering me a path out of my front room and into the place I spent a disproportionate amount of the rest of my time: Brighton food venues!

How did you come to manage Uber Eats in Brighton and what makes you the right person for the job.

My first thought was they had messaged the wrong person, Uber is a global tech giant, and one that I imagine had no shortage of very skilled people queued up to work for them. With nothing to lose, and real intrigue in wanting to know how the industry worked on the inside after my few months delivering the product, I gave the application process a shot. On paper I believe it was having a mix of both B2C and B2B customer facing experience, also in a highly operational industry, coupled with the ability to build and manage high performing teams that got me the role.

In reality I think it might be they just found the person who ate out the most in Brighton, and figured I had the best shot of knowing who we needed on our platform to be successful.

What is your vision for Uber Eats in Brighton? Is there anything unique about Uber Eats in Brighton versus elsewhere?

One of the best things about the role of my team in Uber Eats is that we are fully empowered to think locally, a lot of the big national relationships are taken care of in London, whereas we get to build the marketplace that we as locals would want as eaters.

With that in mind, every town or city we operate in is unique, and that comes from the hundreds of local independent restaurants we work with. And with Brighton, I am incredibly lucky to work with one of those most dynamic food markets in the country, and I am also very aware that means we have to earn our place in that community, and focus on building long term partnerships with those local favourites in order to become platform of choice, rather than throw our weight around with the arrogance of a big company, which will only get you so far.

Is Uber Eats now part of the local hospitality landscape? What part can Uber Eats play in the success and shared prosperity of the city?

I hope so! I think we have seen that delivery is here to stay, thankfully I missed the early years where both the commercial and operational model took time to settle down, and there was concern over the impact on dine-in. Even in my two years with the business, I have seen rapid improvement to the tech, and a maturity in the business as it exits the ‘start-up’ mindset. Those improvements and efficiencies have helped us be able to look at how we partner for the mid to long term, and in doing that we can start tailoring our plans merchant by merchant, looking how we can support them in their growth aspirations, understanding that the only way we will be successful is if our partners are.

For some smaller or new restaurants they can unlock aggregated demand on our platform, and quickly scale a customer base.

In other cases the arrangement is the other way around, where we benefit from established local favourites placing all their business with us where it makes better sense for them to consolidate it with one partner. It is important that the restaurant is the one that is steering that decision, but we look to unlock ways to make that happen for them. In the last year or so we have also put effort into becoming much more integrated into the local community through our partnerships with Restaurants Brighton, BRAVOs and Brighton Fringe.

How do you go about making new friends? What’s special about your approach to partnerships?

First up is we make sure we have tried their food, and understood who they are, and where they are in their journey as a business. As a team, we spend a lot of time having working lunches in nearby restaurants, either new ones, or ones that are not our customers so we all have a good understanding of what is out in the market. There is no point in doing this job if you do not obsess about what is going on in the markets you work in, it annoys me if I can’t get the best takeaways on Uber Eats, and this is what generally forms our hit list! Once we know who we want to work with, we try to build connections through mutual friends, industry partners like Restaurants Brighton, or just the good old fashioned knock on the front door. Then I think what makes us special is that we are here, we are visible and whether it is a sales rep, the account manager or myself (sometimes all three), we start every relationship by listening, trying to see how or where Uber Eats could play a role in that restaurant’s growth plans, rather than dictating our expectations.

How important is the team at Uber Eats to its continuing success?

It is everything! From a merchant perspective, we think of things from a B2B lens; for example how can we create joint marketing or how can we build a sustainable frictionless partnership. The ability to do that successfully, across thousands of restaurants on the South Coast is almost exclusively down to how good your account facing team is, and of course I might be biassed, but I think our team in the field is our strongest asset, years of super local experience, and something I frequently hear really good feedback about.

We all have to think about the environment now. What efforts do you make to reduce your carbon footprint and manage waste?

Uber Eats has committed to 100% sustainable packaging by 2030, and 100% of couriers using zero emission vehicles by 2040 (2030 in London), with plenty of supporting initiatives to make that happen from partnerships with suppliers to offer discounts, to environmental impact research with NGOs. We also have a charity partnership with City Harvest in London that redistributes food waste, and are always looking for further opportunities to complement these initiatives in our local markets.

Tell us about the challenges facing hospitality today. What are you doing at Uber Eats to adapt to current conditions?

The obvious one in the short term is the mix of cost inflation, and pressure on demand through the cost of living crisis. I think the main thing we are doing in response to that is to look at which of those is impacting a business the most, and try to build our relationship around that. We can obviously bring additional demand through delivery, and incremental demand even if a restaurant is already doing delivery, our UberOne membership program means that we are increasingly growing a loyal customer base.

But we are also open to finding creative ways to tackle rising costs, by incentivising making us the preferred or only platform through discounted commission.

What makes Brighton an amazing place to do business?

The perfect size to be big and cosmopolitan enough to sustain a really competitive food industry, but small enough that everyone knows everyone, and supports each other.

There is also an appetite for risk and trying something new, which creates a really dynamic environment, keeping everyone on their toes.

Where are your favourite venues in the city for dining or drinking? Name 2 and say why you like them?

I’m going to cheat and just say Preston Street, so many good choices in one spot. My current favourite which is still slightly under the radar is Shaanxi, incredible hand made fresh noodles, but of course Bincho, Halisco, Goemon Ramen are all very worthy mentions, I did intend to start at one end and see how quickly I could eat in every place, but a recent move to Lewes has made that more difficult (also a big shout out for Dill in Lewes, would not be out of place at the top end of Brighton’s best lists).

What is next for Uber Eats in Brighton?

Personally, it will be doubling down on building relationships across the local industry, whether that is working on a bigger better BRAVOs party, finding some interesting charity partners, or just showing up to events more frequently to make sure we keep ourselves thinking locally and listening to what restaurants are saying.

From a business perspective, there are some really exciting local favourites that we are trying to launch exclusively to really position our selection in line with being the most locally focused. The newest of those will be Baby Bao, but they join some other great Brighton brands Burger Brothers, Carlito Burrito, Alberta’s, Cutie Pies & Fries, China Garden, Nanninella, Goeman Ramen, with more to come in the near future.


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