Uber is pushing further into the world of delivery with a major expansion of grocery delivery services this week, including in San Francisco.

In its quest to become an all-around, on-demand courier of stuff, Uber added new grocery options within Uber Eats today in 400 cities, more than doubling the number of places where the grocery delivery option is available. If you update your app in San Francisco, you'll find delivery available from Safeway, Andronico's, Walgreen's, and an array of ethnic and gourmet food shops as well like La Fromagerie and Jai Ho Indian Grocery.

As The Verge reports, the rapid expansion was made possible through a partnership with Albertson's, the parent company of Safeway, Vons, and a dozen other grocer brands. And the move shows Uber attempting to go toe to toe with the major players in this space already, Amazon and Instacart.

Uber says it has seen major growth in the grocery category since launching it one year ago, in July 2020.

"This past year has been one of incredible growth for grocery delivery,” says Raj Beri, Uber’s global head of grocery and new verticals, in a statement. “Today nearly 3 million consumers order groceries and other essentials each month through Uber and we’re just getting started. By adding thousands of beloved grocers to our selection this year, we are fast-tracking our efforts to help Americans get everything they need from their favorite supermarket, delivered to their doorsteps."

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi spoke about his hopes for the company to be everyone's go-to courier for everything under the sun in an interview last week with the New York Times' Maureen Dowd.

"Right now, I dream about pushing a button and getting a piano delivered to your home in an hour and a half,’" Khosrowshahi said. "I think that’d be really cool."

But right now, the company's previous core business of ferrying people from place-to-place is experiencing some late-pandemic stress points — most notably with a shortage of drivers that has driven the price of rides up an average of 40% nationwide. "It’s not where it needs to be right now," Khosrowshahi admits of the Uber ride-hailing business.

But he says the company is "leaning in and investing super-aggressively to bringing drivers back." He adds, "We told investors, we’re going to hurt our margins in the second quarter doing so."

These days, when you open the regular Uber app, you see options not only for ride pickups, but also for convenience-store items, food, rental cars, package delivery, and a service that lets you hire a driver by the hour to make multiple stops.

Following the acquisitions of Postmates and Drizly, Uber Eats now offers alcohol, pharmacy, and grocery delivery in addition to the usual food delivery from restaurants.

Today's grocery expansion includes the cities of Miami, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Phoenix, and the company says it will be offering grocery delivery nationwide by the end of 2021.

Photo: Scott Warman