Foodora partners with Toronto startup Boozer to deliver alcohol in Vancouver

A Foodora bike courier in Berlin. Thielker/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Foodora has quietly expanded its alcohol-delivery business in Vancouver through an exclusive partnership with Boozer, a Toronto-based alcohol-delivery startup. 

Customers in Vancouver can use the Boozer app to place orders with alcohol retailers in the city, and Foodora couriers deliver the orders. 

The partnership marks Boozer’s first expansion outside Ontario since launching in November 2017. It’s the first time Foodora, a Berlin-based food-delivery app, has partnered with a third-party platform to facilitate alcohol delivery in Canada.

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Talking Point

The partnership marks the first expansion outside Ontario for Boozer, a Toronto-based alcohol-delivery platform. Customers in Vancouver can use the app to place orders with alcohol retailers in the city, and Foodora couriers deliver the orders. It gives Foodora access to Boozer’s customers as competition in Canada’s alcohol-delivery space heats up. The companies are considering expanding the partnership to other cities in the country.

The arrangement—in which Foodora describes itself as a “logistics-as-a-service” provider—is part of the company’s broader plan to get a foothold in the alcohol-delivery space. It follows Foodora’s partnership with the LCBO, announced in May to trial a same-day alcohol-delivery service in Ottawa.

“At this time, the Boozer partnership is one of a kind. We plan to roll out more logistics-as-a-service partnerships later this year,” said Sadie Weinstein, a spokesperson for Foodora in Canada. 

The partnership gives Foodora access to Boozer’s customers in an increasingly competitive market. A growing number of tech platforms are pursuing online alcohol delivery across Canada. Uber Eats started delivering alcohol in Vancouver in 2018, and it’s been lobbying the Quebec government to allow it to deliver alcohol in the province. The company has also said it’s looking to launch the service in Ontario. Smaller startups are looking to capture some of the market, as well, including Toronto-based companies Runner and Inabuggy.

Foodora began delivering alcohol in Vancouver in 2018 through its own app. Weinstein said the Boozer partnership, which launched in June, is another way to leverage its fleet of more than 3,000 couriers in the country. It allows Boozer to expand into a new market without having to hire and manage couriers. 

Vancouver in particular has been a magnet for alcohol-delivery apps, thanks to British Columbia’s more permissive regulations compared to some other provinces—delivery companies don’t need a separate licence to deliver alcohol like they do in Ontario, for example. As such, competition in the city has ramped up. Uber Eats also began delivering alcohol in Vancouver and nearby municipalities in 2018. Inabuggy, a Toronto-based grocery-delivery startup, also delivers alcohol in the city, as does San Francisco-based DoorDash.

Weinstein did not directly answer The Logic’s question of whether the partnership squares with the company’s characterization that it is a technology platform, not a courier company, and that its couriers are third-party contractors, and not employees. That distinction has been central to legal disputes between the company and many couriers who claim they are Foodora employees. “For our partnership with Boozer, foodora is using an existing fleet of third-party contractors in Vancouver to fulfill deliveries,” Weinstein said via email. 

Both Boozer and Foodora are considering expanding their partnership in other cities. Foodora currently operates in seven cities in Canada and more than 260 cities in 22 countries—all of which Boozer views as potential markets for its own business. “[Vancouver] was kind of our testing bed with Foodora,” said Michael Kniazeff, Boozer’s co-founder and CEO. “There’s an existing delivery network across the country that we could utilize to expand—that’s what we’re most excited for. And beyond just the Canadian market, there is a tremendous upside in terms of working with them on an international basis.” 

The two companies are in talks to work together in Toronto. “We’re exploring expanding the Boozer partnership in other Canadian cities where provincial legislation allows it,” said Weinstein. That could eventually include a deal in Ottawa, she said: “It’s something we’re still exploring.”

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Boozer currently works with several small third-party courier companies in Toronto and Mississauga, Ont., the two other markets in which it operates. It is prohibited from delivering alcohol itself in Ontario, since provincial law restricts companies and individuals from delivering alcohol if they have contracts or agreements with alcohol manufacturers, which Boozer does. The company generates revenue by hosting ads from alcohol companies on its platform and by selling data on purchasing behaviour to alcohol companies. 

Boozer hosts 30 retailers on its platform, including government liquor corporations in B.C. and Ontario. 

“We’re trying to make the market here, so we want to keep the margins as low as possible,” said Ian Delves, Boozer’s co-founder and president. “We’re really just trying to be in-service of the retailer and the brewer, driving incremental orders and taking a small commission.” Delves said the company is “beginning to see hockey-stick growth in downloads, users and orders.”