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Amazon's speedy delivery service dishes up restaurant orders

The online retailer's Prime Now program will start providing one-hour delivery for free from certain restaurants in Seattle.

Prime Now users in certain Seattle zip codes will now be able to see restaurant listings. Amazon

And now apple butter pork chops, brought to you by Amazon.

The Seattle online retailer is pushing deeper into restaurant deliveries, announcing Tuesday that it's partnered with a handful of Seattle eateries to serve up orders in an hour or less under its Prime Now speedy delivery program.

The offering, which for now will provide delivery services for free, is the first service from the company's new Amazon Restaurants group, which formed several months back. The effort will start out small, offering deliveries from locations including Skillet (which makes that pork chop), Cactus and Wild Ginger to just a handful of ZIP codes around Seattle. However, the company said it will expand out "in the coming days."

"We want it to continue to grow," Gus Lopez, general manager of Amazon Restaurants , said in an interview. "We have our sights set big, but for now we're focused on Seattle."

Amazon's announcement comes after Reuters on Friday reported that the company was listing online about 15 job openings for Amazon Restaurants positions, though the wire service didn't have further details about the purpose of the group.

The new program and the Amazon Restaurants group may signal the e-commerce giant's big ambitions in restaurant deliveries, but it will have to contend with a crowded field of competitors. GrubHub, Uber and Postmates are all developing new services to get customers food deliveries fast. Groupon in July announced its own new delivery and takeout business called Groupon To Go, available in Chicago.

Tuesday's announcement also shows Amazon's continued focus on growing Prime Now, a rapid deliveries service it started in December that the company has expanded steadily throughout this year. Prime Now and the new Seattle restaurant deliveries program are available only for Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year for no-fees two-day shipping and other benefits. The new effort also points to Amazon's wider ambition to grow in services, after it's already become the US's online leader in selling goods.

The Prime Now restaurant program was created as an offshoot from the company's current takeout and deliveries service in Seattle under the Amazon Local program. That service has included 75 Seattle restaurants, but only five of them have offered deliveries through Amazon's site. That takeout and delivery service will be retired so Amazon can focus on Prime Now program instead. The Prime Now program will already include more delivery options, with eight restaurants listed in a press release, though Amazon didn't provide a specific number of restaurants involved.

The company also offers ready-to-cook meals from restaurants through its Amazon Fresh groceries delivery service.

While these Prime Now deliveries will start as a free service, Lopez was quick to say that the program was not just an experiment.

"We are doing this as a real, full-blown service for customers," he said, "and we are going all out on it, so it is not a pilot."