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DoorDash Forecast Falls Short on Scrutiny Over Profitability

In Technology
May 02, 2024

(Bloomberg) — DoorDash Inc., the largest food delivery service in the US, offered a disappointing profit forecast for the current quarter as the company invests in expanding its list of non-restaurant partners and improving efficiency.

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DoorDash expects adjusted earnings before interest, tax, deprecation and amortization for the current quarter of $325 million to $425 million, the midpoint of which falls well below the average estimate. In the first quarter, DoorDash reported Ebitda of $371 million, higher than analysts’ expectations.

The shares slid about 15% in extended trading after the results. They had more than doubled over the past 12 months.

DoorDash has been adding more items onto the platform as well as making technical improvements to reduce delivery times and errors. While it’s by far the delivery leader in the US, with a 67% market share according to Bloomberg Second Measure, rivals have already become profitable, after years of heavy losses. Uber Technologies Inc. reported its first year as a public company in 2023 and Instacart, which went public last fall, has also reported profitable quarters.

DoorDash hasn’t given a timeline to become profitable on an operating basis, but analysts expect it to reach this milestone by the third quarter of this year, for the first time since it was founded in 2013.

Chief Financial Officer Ravi Inukonda said he expects adjusted Ebitda to ramp up in the second half of the year as the company’s various investments begin to pay off. Margin contributions from its nascent advertising business, which sells sponsored placements to brands within the app, would also increase as the company increases the selection of items, he added.

DoorDash’s soft forecast overshadowed an otherwise rosy report for the most recent period. Total orders for the first quarter increased 21% to 620 million in the three months ended March 31, the company said in a statement Wednesday, exceeding the average analyst estimate of 607.7 million. The gross value of those orders — a key metric for online delivery services — jumped 21% to $19.2 billion, also far surpassing Wall Street’s estimate.

The order value at US grocery stores in particular more than doubled, the company said.

“Our thesis has always been we want consumers to have access to the widest amount of selection possible,” Inukonda said in an interview, adding that the company has gained share in the non-restaurant segment both in the US and abroad. Average user engagement, order frequency and subscribers for its DashPass membership also increased from the previous quarter, he said.

DoorDash has aggressively expanded its non-restaurant offerings over the past quarter, adding to its delivery platform more than a dozen new merchant partners that have included grocery, home improvement, makeup and sportswear stores.

The latest partnerships include ShopRite and Price Rite Marketplace, both of which are owned by Wakefern Food Corp. The company also expanded its food stamp payment option so that it now covers purchases made at Walgreens through the DoorDash app. That has brought the total number of non-restaurant stores to more than 150,000 globally.

The company has so far been able to somewhat sustain its overall growth rates coming out of the pandemic, even after consumers returned to shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. But that growth will hinge on DoorDash’s ability to win over more customers in these new categories, Bloomberg Intelligence analysts wrote ahead of Wednesday’s earnings release.

In its earnings release, the company was also quick to downplay the effect of recently imposed minimum wage standards for delivery workers in New York City and Seattle, which led to DoorDash passing on the cost to consumers in the form of higher delivery fees. The company said it has so far seen less than a 1% reduction in its orders in the first quarter as those two cities represent a small portion of the overall business.

It maintains that such regulations ultimately reduce earnings opportunities for local merchants and drivers.

“We estimate local merchants will earn at least $40 million less annually from the DoorDash Marketplace in Seattle and at least $110 million less annually from the DoorDash Marketplace in New York City due to the new earnings standards,” it said in its earnings statement. The company added that the number of new Dashers in New York City has fallen by 20% since the new minimum wage laws took effect.

(Updates shares and adds additional context.)

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