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Jason Droege, an Uber vice president, says Uber Eats is growing as fast as the ride-hailing service did in its early days. (Uber Inc. Technologies via AP)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — In three years, the Uber Eats restaurant food delivery service has grown from an experiment to serving much of the U.S. and major cities worldwide.

By year’s end, the ride-hailing company says it will cover 70 percent of the U.S. population and be in 243 metro areas, mainly by expanding into smaller cities. It’s already in over 300 cities in 36 countries with many international deliveries done by bicycle.

Q: Is there a particular demographic group that uses Uber Eats?

A: Certainly younger generations use it more. It’s more like how they eat. I think there’s a convenience premium for people who are coming of age now versus people who already have their habits set. If you look back, fast casual was something that was just getting going when I was 10, 11 years old. My generation is very used to going to a restaurant and doing take out, versus maybe the previous generation might have been used to ‘hey, let’s go get groceries.’ Take out has been on the rise ever since the mid- to late-80s. Now you have a generation who wants the additional convenience. Maybe they want to stay home and watch Netflix, or use social media, or they want the access to hundreds of restaurants.

Q: What kind of range do you serve from a customer’s home?

A: We want to make sure that the food arrives hot and delicious. If the food is in the car too long, that’s bad. It’s more about the time than it is about the business because we want that experience to be high quality. Uber has always believed that the faster you can get your ride, or your food, changes how consumers think about the level of convenience. So we’ve been focused from the beginning on getting food delivery from 40 to 45 minutes (from the order time) down to, I think our global average is now 31 minutes. Usually when people are ordering they’re hungry. So we see that people use the product more when it’s delivered faster, so we focus a lot on speed.

Q: How did you know that people would want more than pizza delivered to their home, was it testing?

Q: Is Eats a profit-making entity?

A: We’re focused on growth now, so we’re investing aggressively. We feel really good about the economics of the business. Before we went into expansion, we actually got to a point where we saw the path to profitability, which is why we decided to invest aggressively.

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Follow Tom Krisher: https://twitter.com/tkrisher

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