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At the start of the pandemic, restaurants had to find new ways to serve customers without traditional indoor dining. Food service has pivoted with outdoor seating, more take-out and delivery options. Now, after two tumultuous years, some restaurants and food carts are less enthusiastic about being part of third-party delivery app platforms.

In October 2019, just months before the pandemic pushed restaurants to rely on delivery, Grubhub launched a new pilot program to add non-partner restaurants without their knowledge or consent. Previously, the service only welcomed restaurants that agreed to work with them. Grubhub told Eater the program was adopted to compete with apps like DoorDash, Postmates and Uber Eats, which already used non-partner restaurants on their platforms.

“We’ve used them, sometimes, and had such terrible experiences using them that we gave up and just decided we didn’t want to be listed anymore,” said Sierra Phillips, owner of Bo’s Falafel Bar. “But it didn’t matter, we’d still be on display. And so people will place orders and then they’ll show up here, we get all the wrath from customers.”

Phillips said it took a letter strewn with legal threats informed by her time working as a lawyer to remove her restaurant from Grubhub, but at the time this article went to print it was still listed on Uber Eats and Postmates.

“I definitely unsubscribed from the company portal, unchecked us and did all of that. We showed up for months after that, and I reached out and it took several growing contacts with them of, ‘basically, I’m going to sue you if you don’t stop doing this,” Philips said. “It’s kind of crazy that they’re doing this on multiple platforms. Nobody checks them. There’s no one you can call.”

When restaurants call, they say navigating the customer service process takes time and rarely yields results.

Sierra Phillips has struggled with delivery apps since opening Bo's Falafel Bar.  -JACK HARVEL

  • jack harvel
  • Sierra Phillips has struggled with delivery apps since opening Bo’s Falafel Bar.

“I try to call customer service. I speak with the drivers all the time and have never been called back,” said Ian Vidinha, owner of Aina Kauai Style Grill. “Drivers all say” yeah, customer service sucks. You’re just going down the rabbit hole, basically. So I didn’t contact anyone else.”

Vidinha (who, for the sake of transparency, is the Source editor’s brother-in-law) says he can expect 10-20 drivers over the weekend. Drivers taking orders often have outdated menu information.

“I don’t like the fact that they just went online, to my social media sites and to my webpage, and created a menu on their webpage without me even knowing – from of stuff that was my specials that I did once a year and a half ago,” Vidinha said. “Everything I have there that fluctuates, you know, my menu changes pretty much every days. And they make a menu and then people order it online, and stuff that I haven’t served.”

It’s a frustration shared with drivers, who need to be selective in their orders to maximize their revenue.

A Door Dash bag sits in front of the Podski.  -JACK HARVEL

  • jack harvel
  • A Door Dash bag sits in front of the Podski.

“For the most part, the apps are accurate. However, I’ve had some pretty exceptional cases of trying to pick up food that isn’t being served,” said a Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats driver who asked to remain anonymous to avoid being deported. off the docks. “I was on the phone with DoorDash support for over 30 minutes, after which they canceled my order and paid me $4 for my time.”

Then there’s the issue of quality control, which restaurateurs have to sacrifice when handing over their food to a delivery person.

“It’s just out of your control. You prepare the food, you’re careful, you put a lot of thought into preparing a meal for someone, and then it’s up to the driver to make sure it gets there. warm and untouched,” Phillips said.

All of these issues create frustration between the two teams. Drivers are incentivized to get quick service, juggle orders and, as tip workers themselves, are less likely to tip people serving them than food drivers then bring to customers.

“I have friends who work in fast food and they say that construction workers are very annoying and their least favorite customers because a lot of them are rude, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I always try to be patient, but if an order takes too long I drop it, I don’t care,” the anonymous delivery driver said. “A lot of times we are seen as arrogant, but we just have a job to do like everyone else. You have to be quick, punctual and efficient. Every minute, every mile counts.”

A restaurant announces its affiliation with Uber Eats.  - RAYSONHO VIA WIKIMEDIA

  • Raysonho via Wikimedia
  • A restaurant announces its affiliation with Uber Eats.

In December 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed legislation that capped delivery app commissions at 15%. The apps are already running at a relatively narrow margin, and analysis by Deutsche Bank showed that after paying the drivers, Grubhub earned around 90 cents on a $36 order. Delivery apps attempt to recoup some of these losses by adding different types of fees and displaying higher costs than restaurant fees.

“Delivery charges are something we want to make sure in particular that restaurants are made aware of exactly what they’re being charged for,” said Greg Astley, director of government affairs for the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association. “If a burger is $12 on my menu, but you’re paying $34 for it, as a customer, I think you deserve to know, as a customer, where that extra $22 is going and what it’s worth. restaurant to pay for worker health benefits, or a tip for employees, this goes for marketing and delivery fees for any third-party delivery app you ordered from.

Typical commissions hovered around 30% before the law took effect, and since they were reduced, apps seem to be finding new ways to charge for their service.

“Anecdotally, unfortunately, what we’ve heard is that some of the third-party delivery apps kept their commissions at 15%. But then they added, say, a 15% or 20% marketing fee. %, or other such fees that circumvent the delivery and commission cap,” Astley said.

Drivers can earn around $25 an hour during a dinner rush, not including expenses, if they choose their orders wisely.

A customer browses restaurants on the Uber Eats app.  -GUILLERMO FERNANDEZ VIA FLICKR

  • Guillermo Fernandez via Flickr
  • A customer browses restaurants on the Uber Eats app.

“DoorDash is very frustrating when it comes to checkout. They try to hide high paying orders with low paying orders, but if I were to take all the orders that appeared below $8, my average would drop from $25 at around $15 an hour. wasting money accepting orders blindly,” the anonymous delivery driver said. “However, DoorDash is the most popular platform, so it has the highest order volume, Grubhub second and Uber Eats the lowest, although Uber Eats and Grubhub combined are nowhere near DoorDash’s order volume. .”

Delivery app policies are being challenged in courts across the country. A New York company has filed a class action lawsuit claiming delivery apps used monopoly power to overcharge both customers and restaurants. Gibbs Law Firm recently rejected a proposed settlement by Grubhub in a case representing business owners placed on the platform without their consent.

Drivers across the country are joining a class action lawsuit alleging they were wrongly labeled as independent contractors rather than employees. DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber sued New York City over capping delivery commissions at 15%, and DoorDash filed a separate lawsuit against a law that would require delivery apps to share customer data with restaurants. The outcome of these cases could impact the operation of delivery applications.

The change in attitude towards these services comes after it was touted as the restaurant industry’s best hope of surviving a pandemic. But now, even with the return of indoor dining, delivery has become more popular with consumers.

“Especially when restaurants have been closed three times in the last 22 months by government decree, they really had no choice but take-out and delivery,” Astley said. “It’s that balance between making sure restaurants have these tools, but also making sure they don’t get ripped off for using these tools either.”

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