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.”