By Mari Saito
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -- Amazon.com Inc is adding staff for a new division dedicated to restaurants in Seattle and New York, with indications the unit is trying to rapidly expand a meal delivery service, according to posts on LinkedIn and the company's jobs site.
Amazon, which declined to comment on Friday, is best known as a place to buy millions of products including books and electronics. It has increasingly moved into services, offering customers the ability to book everything from plumbers to local getaways.
The online retailer has dabbled in food delivery before but its move to form a dedicated division called Amazon Restaurants could mean it is preparing to enter the increasingly crowded meal delivery market and compete against well-established players like GrubHub Inc.
The exact purpose of the division is unclear but the job description of at least one employee in the unit suggests Amazon is interested in expanding restaurant delivery services beyond Seattle, where recent media reports say the company is already testing its own meal delivery program.
There are at least 15 job openings for a division called "Amazon Restaurants," based in Seattle and New York, according to a Reuters search on LinkedIn and Amazon's own jobs site.
There are also six other postings for "Amazon Restaurants and Travel," which appears to be a separate unit.
At least five Amazon employees have updated their LinkedIn profiles in the last five months to indicate they are working for Amazon Restaurants. One of them joined the division from GrubHub.
In a job ad posted last week, Amazon said it was looking for candidates to cultivate relationships with restaurant owners.
Amazon already partners with restaurants in Seattle on Amazon Local, a website and app where users can buy local deals and order food for takeout or delivery. Deliveries are done by restaurant staff, not by Amazon.
Technology-focused blog GeekWire reported last week that Amazon began quietly testing its own meal delivery service in Seattle using drivers for Prime Now, the company's one- and two-hour delivery program.
Ride-hailing app Uber has rolled out its own food delivery service UberEats, while startups like Postmates use a network of couriers to deliver food and home essentials.
Groupon Inc also launched its own food delivery service in Chicago in July called Groupon To Go after acquiring OrderUp, a Chicago-based food delivery company.