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Uber Eats courts smaller European restaurants with new offer

Georgina Prodhan

LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) - Uber Eats is opening up its platform to more restaurants in Europe that prefer to use their own delivery staff, seeking the business of smaller, independent restaurants as it battles Just Eat and Takeaway.com in a crowded market.

The takeaway food delivery unit of ride-hailing group Uber has built its business by offering a complete range of services, including riders, first to high-end restaurants that did not offer delivery and then expanding to large chains including Mcdonald's, Subway and KFC.

But as the need for scale intensifies to weed out winners and losers in a $107 billion global market where most players are spending heavily on marketing and still loss-making, Uber needs to win more business in Europe, where more food is ordered directly from independent outlets.

Uber is investing to build up its food delivery business, tripling incentives to Uber Eats drivers to $291 million last quarter as revenue almost doubled, and contributing to a $1 billion overall loss.

"We have a lot of restaurants out there ... that want to do their own delivery," Stephane Ficaja, Uber Eats' general manager for Western and Southern Europe, told Reuters. "We are really targeting the more smaller, independent restaurants."

Uber Eats is now rolling out the platform-only service - which simply connects customers to restaurants - to 150 towns and cities in Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain. It estimates there are an additional 120,000 restaurants it can target, on top of 40,000 it currently partners with across Europe.

It is only trialling the service in Europe so far after launching in Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands at the start of this year. It said take-up had been "good", without elaborating.

Uber Eats is a distant challenger in Italy and Spain and a closer competitor to Just Eat and Deliveroo in France and Belgium, according to usage data from computer and mobile traffic measurement firm SimilarWeb.

It is the main global player active in Portugal and a remote challenger in Poland to Takeaway.com's local brand, Pyszne.pl.

Platform-only businesses are more profitable, because the delivery provider avoids the costs of logistics infrastructure and riders. But the market is limited in size.

The three-year-old service delivered $8 billion of meals last year, up from $3 billion in 2017, and claims to be the world's largest takeout service outside China.

Illustrating the intensity of competition in the food-delivery business, Amazon said last month it would end its U.S. restaurant food delivery service, where its rivals included GrubHub, DoorDash and Uber Eats.

Germany's Delivery Hero relinquished its home market to Dutch rival Takeaway.com at the end of last year.

(Reporting by Georgina Prodhan. Editing by Jane Merriman)