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Food Services Delivering Increased Competition to San Diego Market

“Not going there.” That’s the consumer dining mantra that numerous companies are increasingly following, as they beef up their deliveries of groceries and restaurant meals to homes and offices in San Diego County.

San Francisco-based Instacart, which entered the San Diego market in July 2016, recently announced a significant service expansion for its Southern California grocery deliveries, including the addition of local zip codes that now make it available to around 1 million households in the San Diego market.

Instacart partners with several retailers including Ralphs, Stater Bros., Jimbo’s Naturally, Costco Wholesale, Smart & Final, and Petco. That list also includes Whole Foods Market, but possibly not for much longer, since Amazon Inc. just closed on its $13.7 billion acquisition of the upscale grocer and immediately proceeded to slash prices on numerous items.

Several retail players are now gearing up for an expected grocery war fueled by pricing and delivery access. Amazon itself has been boosting its food deliveries in San Diego County for the past three years, and recently set up software development operations in Solana Beach geared primarily to its AmazonFresh services.

Retail giant Walmart, the nation’s biggest seller of groceries, has responded by teaming up with tech players like Google and Uber to improve its fast deliveries of online and mobile-app orders. Walmart also recently began a service at several of its stores – including four in San Diego County – where customers can pull into the parking lot and have Walmart workers fill their cars with groceries they’ve purchased in advance.

These are on top of several other delivery services that bring groceries and restaurant meals directly to customers in San Diego County, such as Grubhub, DoorDash, OrderUp and Munchery.

The restaurants themselves are increasingly getting into the delivery game and de-emphasizing the middleman. St. Louis-based Panera Bread, which has about 20 fast-casual eateries in San Diego County, announced Sept. 6 that it plans to hire 120 local workers for its new delivery service now being rolled out in the San Diego market, and slated to go nationwide in 2018.

A company statement said Panera plans to make delivery service available within an eight-minute drive from one of its bakery-cafes, generally between the hours of 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. The chain’s full menu will be made available, with a $5 minimum order and a $3 delivery service fee.

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