As restaurants continue to operate by providing take-out, curbside and delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, more are turning to third-party delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub to help people get their orders without having to hire a full delivery fleet themselves.

But several viral social media posts, including one from Frederick restaurant Cafe Bueno, have had people questioning whether these services help or hinder local restaurants. Often, these apps take a large percentage of restaurant’s profits — up to 30 percent, according to an article by Today.

When a restaurant partners with an application like Grubhub, it can choose what kind of services they’d like to use. Some restaurants use these apps so they don’t have to build their own online ordering service, but don’t actually utilize the delivery services.

Cafe Bueno utilized Grubhub in that way many years ago, but canceled the service because there were many errors and the 10 percent commission on pick-up orders was too steep, co-owner Heather Goddard said.

Once the coronavirus pandemic began, however, she noticed the restaurant was getting a lot of orders from Grubhub. Their menu had been uploaded back to the website without the restaurant’s knowledge or permission.

But with 16 orders in a single afternoon, it was business Goddard couldn’t turn away.

“I’m not in a position to refuse those orders,” she said.

The restaurant decided to keep its menu on the app.

Goddard sees the need for delivery right now, since many people cannot leave their houses to get food. She herself, as a busy working mother, has turned to services like DoorDash before to get her meals.

But she was troubled by the way Grubhub interacts with restaurants where there isn’t a partnership. When somebody places an order for Cafe Bueno through Grubhub, the order doesn’t go to the restaurant. It goes to a Grubhub driver, who calls the restaurant or comes in to order, and then pays for the order with a Grubhub credit card.

Because Cafe Bueno did not actually put its own menu on the app, it doesn’t have many of the customizations and options that are available on each menu item. These include if tacos are Mexican or American style, for example. So when a Grubhub driver comes to order, they’re often missing several details.

The drivers themselves don’t know the details, since they’re reading off of the online order.

“And we insist now, you have to call your customer and get this right,” Goddard said. “So we’ll go through each menu item, this is what you need to ask about this, this is what you need to ask about that. Come back when you have the correct order.”

But if Goddard wants to change the Grubhub menu, she would have to partner with the app again, and pay up to 30 percent of each order to the app for delivery. She’s not sure it’s worth it.

Pumpernickel + Rye, a deli in Urbana that opened in November, decided to enroll with Grubhub and DoorDash once the pandemic began, said co-owner Amy Nesbit. The apps help deliver further than their in-house service, which her husband runs.

And as a new business, it’s important to her to get their name out there and reach as many people as possible.

But with such high fees, she said it’s hard to even turn a profit on the orders made through third-party delivery apps.

“So yes, it does help us that way, it gets us out of the neighborhood,” Nesbit said. “But I can’t stress enough, they take all of our profit. We break even on everything that goes into their bag.”

For Shayne McIntyre, general manager of Chap’s Pit Beef, the lack of control over the orders is frustrating. He appreciates the interface and how easy it is to order, but doesn’t like seeing food that’s ready to go sit and wait for a delivery driver.

“The vast majority of the drivers are fantastic, they’re polite, they come really quickly, they’re prompt,” McIntyre said. “… Unfortunately, there are some times where either there’s a lot of deliveries going out or there’s just not a lot of drivers available, and so the food has to sit for 10, 15 minutes which is just unfortunate.”

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley

(18) comments


I think it will take years for restaurants to get the numbers of customers they got before.


I suspect you are correct. We have taken advantage of the curbside pickup at several of our favorite restaurants and like dining at home at our pace. The portions seem to be bigger too. One of our favorites in Frattelli's, and one trip will give us several meals.


people are cooking at home now because they are home and have the time. When they have to go back to work they the restaurants will get their business back again


It wont be that simple to just reopen.


I made a run to Lowes yesterday morning and discovered that half of Frederick County decided to visit at the same time. On the way home, I stopped by Wal Mart and bumped into the other half of our fine citizenry. Can't recall ever needing to say 'excuse me' so many times. There's more personal space at a rave but everyone seemed to be wearing masks so the Karens in the community will be pleased about that.

Brilliant leadership we've had in Maryland throughout this fiasco. Funneling massive groups of people into only a handful of open establishments is top-notch disease prevention. And I'm sure the people who own stock in companies like Wal Mart, Home Depot, Costco etc. appreciate it as well. In fact, when the smoke clears, they may be the only companies to survive this mess.

Looking forward now to Jan pushing the restaurant re-openings waaay out so I can cash-in on my new investments in the big national chains. Market Street was too crowded on the weekends anyway so two birds with one stone. Right?


The states are following the federal guidelines, want to place blame, blame the top of the herd, not the governors.


Yup I agree a mess

Hollowed Ground

Don't know why there is so much concern over restaurants. They are far from essential and even downright unnecessary as we have learned by the pandemic. You can do much better preparing real food at home, and it doesn't take any longer than it does to drive and wait. And a lot less riskier to your health and life now. So whoever you would eat out with you should invite over instead. They could even bring fresh veggies, fresh fruits or a freshly made (not store bought) salad while you provide the fresh grilled or broiled or baked beef or fish or pork. Home food is real food, not food product, seasoned not bland. The only think it lacks over restaurant food is the processing additives and carcinogens. Home drinks are made with top shelf liquor, not bottom shelf, ounces not milliliters. Plus you can linger without being hinted at to leave. So why put so much effort at obtaining something you're better off without?


While I agree that similar quality is possible at home, I like ordering what I prefer (diverging from general taste), having it show up with no effort on my part, and being uninvolved in the cleanup aftermath. When I'm ready to leave shortly after a meal, I can go. Or I can hug whoever I'm with then go. I know some people feel great about the hosting part, I'm glad when it's other people.


You have made numerous false claims about food served in restaurants. Having said that, stay home, it's your choice. More room for me at the fine restaurants I enjoy patronizing.


"Once the coronavirus pandemic began, however, she noticed the restaurant was getting a lot of orders from Grubhub. Their menu had been uploaded back to the website without the restaurant’s knowledge or permission."

Sorry but this has been reported in other areas, too. I refuse to use a service that forces itself on a business without permission. If the business wants to use it exclusively, I'll probably take my business elsewhere. Grubhub is out.


couldnt agree more, in-house delivery is far better anyways


But she received 16 orders, that's 16, which she said she could not turn away because she needed the business. If Grubhub is that bad, she could have simply turned away the business.


I would like to hear from a restaurant that has decided not to provide their own delivery service.

For those customers who cannot drive over to do pickup, would restaurants prefer that these customers use a delivery app or that they just always patronize only those restaurants that do provide delivery? Are the restaurants who are complaining about the delivery apps happy to lose those customers?

It may shock these restaurant owners to find out that there are people who either don’t drive or don’t have access to a car. If restaurants don’t want their business, they should say so.

Hollowed Ground

They would prefer you patronize somebody else. Creating their own delivery service is complicated. Easier to just sign onto an existing service and raise prices accordingly.


If a restaurant using a delivery service only breaks even on those orders, why non earth would they go to all the effort to buy food, prep it, cook it, and clean up afterwards (following all the Health Department requirements, of course) only to not make any money?

Not every restaurant is set up to hire their own delivery drivers, either.


Restaurants do not sell food at cost.


Dutch's Daughter, ask them.

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