It Sure Looks Like Uber Eats Used AI-Generated Food Photos

Nothing says "appetizing" like dinner from the uncanny valley

Real pizza
Hey, look! It's a real slice of pizza!
Getty Images

Photographing food in a way that makes it look tasty can often involve doing things to that food that render it inedible. It’s not terribly surprising to open a food delivery app and notice that the images illustrating a slice of pizza, a breakfast sandwich or a salad are stock photos rather than images of the actual food for sale at a given restaurant. And, again, there’s a reason for that: great food doesn’t always translate into the visual world, as anyone who’s sought the perfect angle for a photo of dinner can attest.

Still, there are stock photos and there are stock photos, and someone appears to have caught Uber Eats (or a restaurant using the platform) in an embarrassing trip back from the uncanny valley. Twitter user @realonlineboy posted a few screenshots taken on the app along with the suggestion that the accompanying images were AI-generated. It’s not hard to fault his logic.

Consider: the “medium whole pie” depicted looks like a dessert rather than a pizza. The image of ranch dressing features a bottle with a brand name that doesn’t seem to exist. And the images of actual pizza on there also look ever-so-slightly off, as though they were reverse-engineered by aliens to sate the appetites of some unlucky abductees.

In a followup post, @realonlineboy clarified that he was familiar with the restaurant and would be contacting them this weekend to get to the bottom of the issue — and to see who was responsible. And yes, the eatery in question is a dedicated pizza establishment, not a pizzeria with a sideline in baked desserts.

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We are, unfortunately, living in a world where AI-generated photos are used more and more frequently and are purported to be the real thing — whether they’re of food, people or news events.

Here, the situation gets even thornier, as these images seem to be working at cross-purposes to Uber Eats’ business model — namely, getting people to order food. In other words, it’s hard to imagine someone unfamiliar with the restaurant in question looking at those images, thinking, “Damn, that looks delicious” and sending in an order.


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