FAIRFIELD — “This call may be recorded for awesomeness.”
For customers who hear that when calling their local restaurant to order food, there’s a chance they might instead be getting in touch with a call center run by Grubhub.
That is the issue Andrew Pane, the owner of Pizza Post of Fairfield, ran into recently. His customers have come in frustrated by long phone wait times, not being able to understand the person on the line and just generally feeling bad about not calling the restaurant directly, he said.
Andrew Pane said Grubhub approached him approximately 10 years ago after he had signed up with a different food ordering service called Eat24. Grubhub renegotiated rates with Pane, and it eventually bought Eat24.
“I was just trying to get as much business as possible,” he said.
He said he doesn’t have a contract or written agreement with the company, but was working with them to drum up more businesses.
“I was hoping to get some online orders, meaning that they would simply put my menu on their website, accept orders for my product, they take a percentage and that’s basically it,” he said. “Maybe naive in my part but it was that simple to me.”
But he said he realized about two months ago that some people who were looking up Pizza Post were sometimes finding a number that did not lead them directly to his restaurant, but instead to Grubhub. Therefore, he said, many of his customers are unintentionally giving the company a cut of his business.
“When people order with them, even if they pay cash or whatever, and they meant to call us and not call Grubhub, now they’re taking a commission as well,” he said. “Grubhub representatives pick up the call and take the order, then those representatives send us an order.”
Looking up Pizza Post on various services, several different numbers can be seen attributed to the business. Numbers listed on Grubhub and other services under its umbrella, lead callers to the Grubhub line.
When a customer calls the Grubhub phone number, the person answering says something to the tune of “This is Pizza Post in partnership with Grubhub. May I take your order?”
When reached for comment by Hearst Connecticut Media, Grubhub Director of Corporate Communications Katie Norris said the phone numbers those customers were calling were a part of the company’s assisted ordering service, but Grubhub would opt Pizza Post out of it.
Andrew Pane said neither he or his son were aware they were enrolled in the assisted ordering service.
Grubhub has made headlines for some of its business practices in recent years.
In 2020, Buzzfeed reported on the Grubhub practice of redirecting calls through phone numbers they create “for which restaurants are charged fees that can sometimes exceed the income the order generates.”
The article notes that because of the fees restaurants pay to Grubhub when an order comes through it, a customer ordering something small like a coffee could actually put the restaurant in the red, as it has to pay Grubhub a flat fee.
It also notes that the redirect number can also appear higher in Google search results than the restaurant’s own line. Grubhub, however, stated in its statement to Hearst Connecticut that it “does not control whether Google displays this phone number.”
Some governments have taken actions against food delivery services, such as Grubhub.
In 2020, the New York City Council passed a bill that put a cap on commissions charged by third-party delivery services as well as another bill that banned fees for phone calls that don’t end in a sale, like those requesting information about a restaurant’s hours or menu.
In California, Grubhub and other food ordering services had to pull thousands of restaurants from their listings after a law that took effect this year began requiring apps to only offer delivery from restaurants with which they had a direct partnership.
Troubles with orders
Andrea Pane, Andrew’s son, said customers are coming in very frustrated after bad experiences on the phone — thinking they were talking to the restaurant, but in fact were on the line with a call center.
Andrew Pane said he has a lot of loyal customers and they do not like mistakenly calling another company to order food from Pizza Post.
“They don’t memorize our phone number, and so we’ve started to tell people to put it in their cell phones so they don’t have to look us up,” he said. “They get upset that people are taking a commission of the sales of their whatever, and they didn’t want that.”
Another issue, Andrew Pane said, is that customers have said they have a hard time communicating with some of the people working for Grubhub and it has led to some customers getting frustrated.
Andrea Pane, said he started noticing the issues when Pizza Post began getting Grubhub orders electronically with weird modifications or incorrect pricing.
As an example, Andrea Pane said an order for a sausage and meatball pizza would come in as a meat lovers pizza, but with a comment that specified to just put sausage and meatball. “So, customers were overpaying at the end of the day,” he said.
Andrea Pane said customers would come in and get confused when he asked them if their order was the Grubhub order.
“Well, we received this as a fax from Grubhub,” he said. “They would say, ‘Well, I was on the phone with someone and it took forever. It took like 10 to 15 minutes to place this order for a large pizza.’ It’s terrible customer service and it gives us a bad reputation.”
Andrea Pane also took umbrage with the fact that the call center answers customers by identifying themselves as Pizza Post, saying it misleads them.
“Not only are people often overpaying for these orders that Grubhub is putting in, but they are also doing this whole rigmarole on the phone that takes a good 10 minutes,” he said. “An order on the phone with us takes like 30 seconds to put in.”
Andrew Pane said he had called Grubhub five or six times to ask them to stop redirecting calls through their services. He said he has been told that a senior or supervisor would call him, but that has not happened yet.
The senior Pane said he is mainly just worried about his restaurant’s reputation.
Norris said Pizza Post was enrolled in the assisted ordering service, which gives customers options to order through a Grubhub representative or speak with the restaurant directly. When they were a part of that service, she said, the phone number appeared on the restaurant’s Grubhub listing and AllMenus, which is a Grubhub portfolio brand.
“We’re getting this resolved on our side including reaching out to the restaurant owner and removing the assisted ordering number, but it will take a little time for our team to take all of the necessary steps,” she said. “We’re committed to working with Pizza Post on a resolution.”
Andrew Pane said he first heard from Grubhub on Friday, after Hearst Connecticut Media reached out to the company. He said he was told they would contact him on Monday to discuss his account with Grubhub, but never received the call.
He said he got a couple of complaints from customers over the weekend that the issue was still occurring, but it has not happened since Sunday.
“I’m happy with that outcome, but it makes you wonder why they would assume they could do something like that without speaking to me or to my son,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”