Uber has launched a food delivery service in London, extending the company's reach in the UK beyond its car booking app for the first time.

UberEats will sell food from 150 restaurants that do not typically deliver in central London via a network of bicycle and moped couriers, challenging other takeaway apps such as Just Eat and Deliveroo.

The launch of the service represents the latest expansion of the rapidly-growing start-up, which has spread to 20 UK cities since arriving in London in 2012, and hundreds globally.

The UberEats service will use a new iPhone and Android app, but connect to the same credit card account as the Uber car service does. Users will then be able to browse the menus of local restaurants, and order food to their location, determined by GPS.

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It plans to sell food from a wider range of restaurants than the curry and pizza establishments that define the traditional British takeaway, including salad and sandwich bars, and its 11am to 11pm hours make the service a target for lunch as well as dinner.

Uber is entering a crowded market for food delivery, but plans to win customers by offering guaranteed delivery within 30 minutes and not charging delivery fees during an introductory period.

"I think people will come to UberEats for the same reasons they come to Uber in the first place," said Alex Czarnecki, the general manager of UberEats in London.

"This is going to be significantly faster than competitors."

The launch in London follows cities in the US and Canada, Melbourne, Singapore and Paris. The service will initially launch in London's Zone 1 but expand outwards. Czarnecki said it planned to extend to Zones 2-4 as well as other UK cities in the coming months.

The rating systems of the Uber car app, which the company uses to weed out bad drivers, will be replicated for both couriers and restaurants. Customers will be able to give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on both the delivery service and individual items on restaurant menus.

Uber says it has signed up thousands of delivery couriers, who will be paid a per-mile and per-delivery rate that Uber says will be equivalent to £10 (NZ$20) an hour. This compares to the £7 (NZ$14) an hour and £1(NZ$2) per delivery Deliveroo pays its couriers in London.

Workers for both are classes as freelancers, so choose when to work and are not subject to minimum or maximum hours. These "gig economy" apps have been criticised for failing to provide traditional employee rights such as paid holidays, and Deliveroo has been accused of putting cyclists at risk by failing to ensure safety standards, and refusing to accept liability.

Czarnecki said UberEats required moped drivers to have appropriate insurance and that cyclists would be given instructions on riding safely when they sign up.