This Seattle Restaurant Has Dropped DoorDash and Hired Its Own Delivery Drivers

For months, restaurants and customers have been complaining about high fees instituted in Seattle by food delivery apps like DoorDash and GrubHub after a City Council ordinance raised driver pay. There’s now an intense debate among politicians, business owners, and workers about whether the law should be repealed or tweaked in order to bring those fees down, but one Seattle mini chain no longer has to worry about it — Bok a Bok, a fried chicken restaurant with four locations, has pulled itself off of the DoorDash platform and will now be doing all of its deliveries in-house after hiring its own delivery drivers.

“There’s something to be said for the old pizza delivery model,” owner Brian O’Connor says, where the delivery person is an employee of the restaurant — pretty much the only model that existed before third-party delivery apps came on the scene a couple decades ago. “I know that using our own employees and our own drivers, [the food is] going to get there with a little bit more care and attention than [from someone] that doesn’t work with us.”

The change is a pretty monumental one for Bok a Bok, a takeout-and-delivery-only operation that previously used DoorDash as its delivery partner and relied on third-party apps for 65 percent of its business. It hired a dozen delivery drivers, established delivery radii for its locations, and now relies exclusively on its website and phone lines to take orders.

Among other things, this switch is a tidy solution to a problem a lot of Seattle restaurants are facing. In January, when the Seattle City Council ordinance called PayUp came into effect, it raised the minimum wage for delivery app drivers; in response, both DoorDash and Grubhub tacked on a $5 fee for all orders. This caused order volume to plummet at many restaurants, including Bok a Bok.

The new fees were “a factor” in Bok a Bok’s decision to hire its own delivery team, says O’Connor. But more important, O’Connor says, was increasing the control Bok a Bok has over the customer experience. If a guest has a complaint under the third-party delivery app system, he says, they’ll complain to the app, and it’ll take a long time for them to get their money back. “And they can’t get another driver out to them to drop something off.” Under this new system, though, “if there’s a mistake, and we forget something in a bag, we can fix it by sending another driver and making our guests happy.”

Bok a Bok customers are now charged a flat $7.49 delivery fee — a much more transparent process than going through a third-party app and being hit with multiple fees. It’s also now cheaper, says O’Connor.

“Our food is very good; I’m very, very proud of what we serve. But it’s only so good to a certain amount of money,” he says. If app fees increase the cost of what would normally be a $25 order to $45, customers are going to be justifiably frustrated.

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Will this be the start of a trend of restaurants and customers ditching the apps? O’Connor says that he hasn’t heard from any other restaurants who are interested in following the Bok a Bok model. But Tony Delivers, a service founded by Tony Illes, has been making delivers in select downtown neighborhoods for $5 and is hoping to expand. At least some entrepreneurs in the Seattle area are interested in ways to deliver food without relying on the large apps.

Leaving DoorDash means that Bok a Bok can no longer use the app to attract new customers through searches or in-app advertising. That sort of marketing, O’Connor says, is extremely helpful but “comes as an expense, and that’s a cost to the guests and also to the restaurant.” So far, the experiment at Bok a Bok is going well, at least according to one metric, O’Connor says. “We’re getting a lot more comments and compliments on our delivery.”

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