The future of food delivery in Ottawa: Why Uber Eats and SkipTheDishes are a ‘necessary evil’ for some restaurants

…Over 20 or so minutes, the routine was repeated to fill eight Uber Eats orders. That’s the kind of volume that helped establish the breakfast bagels at Kettleman’s (which has three Ottawa locations) as Uber Eats’s most delivered item between May 2016, when the service launched in Ottawa, and its one-year anniversary. Since then, after Uber Eats expanded its list of restaurant partners, orders from chains such as McDonald’s have bumped Kettleman’s from top spot.

Not surprisingly, Buckley is sold on Uber Eats. Between eight and 10 per cent of Kettleman’s business comes through Uber Eats and that percentage is growing, he says. His plans to open Kettleman’s locations in Toronto and Montreal call for them to have dedicated queues for Uber Eats.

Regarding online food delivery services, which in Ottawa include not just Uber Eats but also SkipTheDishes, which came to town in 2014, and the recent arrival DoorDash, Buckley says “it’s definitely something a restaurant has to have.”

…The sceptical ones complain their returns are meagre, that the services take a massive middleman’s cut (usually between 25 and 35 per cent of the order), and that when things go wrong — the specifics of orders are botched, the food arrives cold, the drivers are late, early, or surly, and more — headaches mount.

“There are loads of problems,” says Jamil Bhuya, co-owner of the Ottawa-based Burgers n’ Fries Forever chain, which has partnered with both Uber Eats and SkipTheDishes.

“We’ve had delivery drivers show up as late as an hour,” Bhuya says. “Once, we had a five-meal order take two hours to pick up.

“We’re trying to get in touch with service providers … their business practices have gotten a little less transparent in terms of who we can contact if we are in trouble,” he continues. “It’s becoming increasingly harder to keep the customer happy and usually the customer takes his anger out on the restaurant.”

…“Also, having an outside service that isn’t invested in the company (with their heart and soul) is a big risk I would never take,” Foucault says.

…But he adds that the accounting methods of Uber Eats and SkipTheDishes strike him as “deliberately confusing.

“Every quarter we sit down and take a hard look at sales. Dissecting Uber and Skip statements are nearly impossible. They keep sales and deposits separate, making it extremely difficult to cross-reference each customer’s order versus the money we have been paid. They also refuse to speak to you regarding any accounting questions. We have tried to contact them multiple times, to no avail. This has naturally been very frustrating.”

…“We have noticed in the last year or two, the service from account managers has pretty much disappeared,” he says. “We used to have a dedicated account manager, but now we just get to a general help line or hotline.

“The money comes to us on a weekly or biweekly basis with fees deducted. For us to argue is such a hassle and a waste of time. Two weeks later, we don’t remember what we got dinged for,” he says.

…“I feel like the people who provide the most value, which is the restaurants, are treated like the last priority now. We are called restaurant partners — that makes it extremely hard to stomach these days.”


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