All spring, since COVID-19 lockdowns forced restaurants to rely on takeout and delivery in order to stay open, we’ve heard plenty of grievances against third-party delivery apps: The apps charge restaurants exorbitant fees, they post menus with significantly higher prices, they post phone numbers for restaurants that actually connect to the delivery app, they list restaurants without their consent.
Now The New York Times has published an article that collects anecdotes from restaurant owners across the country. The apps give priority to larger chains over small, independent businesses. A pierogi restaurant owner in Columbus, Ohio was forced to shut down completely because Grubhub charged him a fee of 40% per order to be part of its “visibility” program; the restaurant owner had thought Grubhub would be the party paying for the visibility. Grubhub canceled 10 orders from a New York restaurant after no one answered when an employee called to check on an order and stuck the restaurant with the bill. A Denver restaurant owner sued Grubhub for creating websites for restaurants without their permission and then labeling them as “closed” or “not taking online orders.” A Chicago restaurant owner agreed to a promotional no-fees deal with Caviar (owned by DoorDash), but Caviar charged her the full fees anyway and put a notice on its site that the restaurant was only delivering through Caviar, which was not true; Caviar only took down the notice after she complained at a Chicago City Council meeting.
Restaurant owners find this all the more egregious because the delivery apps have lately been promoting themselves as friends to small, independent businesses that have been suffering through the COVID-19 shutdowns. But in reality, one owner said, “They take care of their corporate partners first and then use us for advertising to try to create good will.”
“Everyone is trying to help us,” said another, “our landlord, New York City, our customers. But these companies who are supposed to be our partners take more money than anyone else and try to get us on every charge they can.”
Will there be a day of reckoning for delivery apps? Or will they only make an honest effort to change when customers stop using them altogether and it hits them in the proverbial wallet?