ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — One popular delivery service has been receiving some negative feedback on new policies they are testing in Rochester.
Grubhub is one of the most popular food services, serving more than 20 million customers, or “diners” across the country. Rochester is one of more than 2,700 U.S. cities that have the service in place. Other food apps like Door Dash and Uber Eats provides similar services.
“It’s always something we’ve utilized, specifically for delivery,” said Dara Dunim, the front of house manager at Sol Burrito in Rochester. She says Grubhub is a huge portion of their delivery orders, sometimes 50 percent or higher.
They have been working with Grubhub for over eight years, but at first, the relationship was rocky.
Sol Burrito already had a delivery service. After some kinks were worked out with Grubhub, the restaurant is now able to use their own drivers, so the service is strictly for ordering.
“We are able to utilize it for the order processing part of it, but we don’t fall victim to having to pay them that additional compensated commission payment for the drivers,” Dunim said.
Other restaurants may feel a bit more uneasy about the services provided. According to a Grubhub spokesperson:
“We’ll add restaurants to our marketplace when we see local diner demand for delivery so the restaurant can receive more orders and revenue from deliveries completed by our drivers. We work to provide accurate menus and hours for these restaurants on our marketplace based on available information online.”
This means the company can still list a restaurant within the app without their permission. If an order is placed from that restaurant, a team member orders ahead or in person, a driver picks it up and pays for the order. That order is then delivered.
Rochester is one of a few select cities for this new policy. While a vast majority of Grubhub’s restaurant partnerships are sales that go through the app and into the restaurant, this method does not include the restaurant at all.
This caused frustration at Spirit Room, a bar and restaurant in Rochester. The new policy requires restaurants to reach out themselves to update accurate information or to be removed from the service. According to Grubhub, Spirit room asked to be removed and was done so in late December 2019.
If the restaurant is not partnered with Grubhub, you can expect to pay more not only in delivery fees but service fees as well.
Mandy’s Pizza and Kelly O’s Diner are just two businesses who contend that the Grubhub food delivery service has captured their online menus and delivered their food without consent.
Grubhub is “hijacking our menu,” says Lynn DiFilippo, part owner of Kelly O’s Diner. “They’re taking our menu and using it for themselves to turn a profit, which is quite frankly, just sickening.”
DiFilippo says Grubhub drivers pose as regular customers, pick up food, and sometimes take as long as 60 to 90 minutes to get it to the customer.
Sometimes the order is incorrect, she says, but the real dig is that Grubhub is charging customers a delivery fee and service fee, while not having a formal agreement with the business to deliver their food. The delivery fee is $5.99 and the service fee is $5.49, plus tax and driver tip.
“My problem with Grubhub is that they are offering their services to a customer base, without telling specific restaurants they’ve been added to their sites,” says Steven Negri, owner of Mandy’s Pizza.
In his case, Grubhub is delivering food without consent and taking business away from his own delivery service. “When they’re coming to pick up an order, that’s money they’re taking from our staff, because our drivers should be making those deliveries.”
A spokesperson in Grubhub’s Chicago headquarters says Mandy’s Pizza and Kelly O’s Diner have been removed from their database, and they will further investigate claims made by Negri and DiFilippo.
Chef Robert Thomas has a delivery-only Italian restaurant and an American diner, with a vegan restaurant on the way
Chef Robert Thomas, co-owner and chef of Blackbird Pizza and Swift Lounge, has recently launched a restaurant group that operates entirely online, with delivery-only service through programs like Grubhub and Postmates. With two full-sized kitchens — one entirely devoted to vegan production — the former fine-dining chef is able to produce pasta and pizzas with Carmine’s Italian, American dining with a spin-off of Swift Lounge, and, soon, comforting vegan cuisine with Vegan Junk Food.
Chef Thomas, who worked in lauded New York restaurants like Danny Meyer’s famed Gramercy Tavern, realized the opportunity he had when the Blackbird location on North Interstate closed in early December of 2018. “It was a fairly bad location for a restaurant,” says Thomas. “But it’s great for delivery, with two kitchens built into it, on Interstate with 15-minute parking spots, right off of I-5.” A little more than a month later, he had Carmine’s Italian open, pivoting from Blackbird’s thick-crust pizzas to thinner ones with loaded toppings, as well as a host of mix-and-match pasta dishes. Diners can pick between sauces like bolognese, pesto, and a bean and sausage ragu “like grandmother would have made,” says Thomas, as well as their choice of pasta, from spaghetti to ravioli. All of it is made with delivery specifically in mind. “We’re trying to capture that crowd of people who want to have a full meal with vegetables, and salads, those who maybe have kids. The people want to go home, not out to eat, but don’t necessarily want to cook.”
Last week, the small team, which includes Jay Vance of Stanford’s restaurant group, added and expanded Swift Lounge’s menu to the kitchen. “It’s quickly becoming our American restaurant,” says Thomas, referencing the added items like baked potatoes, meatball subs, and meatloaf. For the mason jar cocktails, folks will still have to head into the bar.
Next on the agenda is Vegan Junk Food, which should be up and running by the end of the week or early next week. That will focus on, unsurprisingly, vegan foods with comfort in mind, like calzones, totchos, nachos, fries, and a Hawaiian plate with vegan loco moco, fried seitan “katsu,” and mac salad. Later down the line there might be other concepts — Thomas has floated the idea of chili dog shop, for example.
Most online delivery services in Portland deliver for the restaurants, including Postmates, Grubhub, Doordash, Uber Eats, and Caviar.
The food delivery market is fiercely competitive with little to differentiate one company from another.
“They’re so hungry to get your money,” said Ms Techamuanvivit, who is planning to sue the companies.
Offering words of advice to fellow restaurateurs, she said: “If you own a restaurant, especially a popular one, make sure you check these unscrupulous sites to see if they are faking your businesses on there too.
“This is horrid. Reckless. And just horrid.”
Last June, Grubhub was accused of creating thousands of fake restaurant websites that fooled customers into thinking they were buying from actual restaurants.
“I think a lot of independent restaurant operators feel, increasingly so, that they are being taken advantage of, and that the business relationship favours the delivery service,” said Stephen Dutton of market research provider Euromonitor International.
When Adam Mesnick, the owner of Deli Board on Folsom Street, saw a courier enter his restaurant and bypass the line of already waiting customers, he was perplexed.
Grubhub bag in hand, the delivery driver said he was expecting to pick up an order for Allison C. The problem was, Mesnick said, the order had never been received.
One of his employees eventually refunded the order, but the same thing happened three times on Saturday afternoon. A courier for Grubhub would walk in, looking confused and expecting an order that hadn’t been prepared. One delivery driver in particular was upset: he had driven 15 miles out of his way only to find his order wasn’t there.
That day, Mesnick did a little research. He discovered Deli Board was among a growing number of restaurants that had been added to Grubhub’s website without prior consent. Not only that, but menu items were also outdated — “there was some kind of soup I did two years ago,” said Mesnick, along with a sandwich called the “Dollar Sign” they no longer serve — and the pricing was inaccurate.
“I’ve made hundreds of sandwiches. I make specials every single day. I’m constantly recreating and changing menus,” Mesnick told SFGATE over the phone Sunday. “Sometimes I have extra turkey, sometimes I don’t. We have unexpected changes, but this wasn’t my current menu at all.”
Stranger yet, his restaurant hadn’t willingly partnered with any sort of delivery service since 2010. That was Postmates, and he said he stopped working with them when Deli Board, at the time a catering company, moved into their brick-and-mortar location a year later.
On Sunday afternoon, he confirmed at least seven of the sandwiches listed on Grubhub’s menu for Deli Board were not currently available.
“Could it have been the ultimate blunder of food delivery?” he wondered aloud, adding he planned on calling Grubhub to have his restaurant removed from the app. He also put a sign up in the front window letting Grubhub drivers know his restaurant was not affiliated with the service. “It’s time-wasting, and it’s someone’s job. It really creates so much confusion for the workers.”
Mesnick’s restaurant wasn’t the only one caught in the midst of the confusion. Greg Lutes, chef and co-owner of 3rd Cousin in Bernal Heights, told SFGATE he also found his restaurant listed on Grubhub for “delivery only” with an outdated menu from 2018.
“We don’t offer delivery at all. We’ll occasionally do takeout,” Lutes said.
While Lutes hasn’t seen any Grubhub orders come through, he said a Postmates courier stopped by his restaurant a month ago for one such takeout order after receiving several robocalls from the company asking if 3rd Cousin was open. “It’s almost like counterfeiting. It was like they hacked our restaurant,” he said.
Both Mesnick and Lutes said they never would have looked up their restaurants on the app had they not seen a tweet from fellow chef and restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit.
In a thread that has since gone viral, she said she was working at her Michelin star restaurant, Kin Khao, on Saturday night, when she received a request for delivery over the phone. Puzzled, she told him her restaurant didn’t offer delivery or even takeout.
“What were you doing on Seamless then?” he reportedly asked. The food delivery app is also owned by Grubhub.
In the thread, Techamuanvivit said she had “googled Kin Khao delivery,” and sure enough, the restaurant was listed on Grubhub and Seamless as well as Yelp, accompanied by dishes that weren’t actually on the menu.
“We just became aware of this practice, and have taken immediate steps to ensure it does not extend to restaurants’ Yelp pages,” a Yelp representative said in a statement.
One of Techamuanvivit’s other restaurants, Nari, was also on Doordash.
“They’re so hungry to get your money, they don’t care who makes the food they’re delivering to your home. It can be some rando dirty warehouse somewhere. Because they sure are not picking up the food from @KinKhao,” she wrote.
Techamuanvivit did not respond to SFGATE’s request for an interview, but a Grubhub spokesperson confirmed the menu they had listed for Kin Khao on their app was incorrect and the restaurant had since been removed from their marketplace.
But why was it there in the first place?
A couple of months ago, the spokesperson explained, Grubhub began adding “high demand” restaurants to their website for those restaurants to receive more orders and revenue from deliveries completed by Grubhub’s drivers. Menu information and restaurant hours — although proven inaccurate, in many cases — were based on information found online.
According to the Grubhub spokesperson, their team orders ahead or in person from the restaurant, after which one of their drivers picks up, pays for and delivers the order.
“Out of the 140,000 restaurants we partner with, diners increasingly want delivery. If a restaurant doesn’t want those orders, we’re happy to remove them,” the spokesperson told SFGATE over the phone.
When asked why Grubhub didn’t reach out to restaurants in advance to avoid confusion or misinformation, the spokesperson said, “We want to give our diners as many options as possible and as quickly as we can,” adding their goal was to provide restaurants with a surge in revenue; ultimately encouraging them to want to stay on the platform. Grubhub reportedly provided more than $5 billion in gross food sales to local takeout restaurants in 2018, processing an average of more than 400,000 orders a day.
“The vast majority of our orders are and will continue to be from these restaurants we partner with,” the spokesperson said. “It’s our aim to bring the best delivery experience possible while balancing the interests of our diners, restaurants and drivers, and complying with all local laws and regulations in connection with our business.”
Grubhub is asking restaurants that prefer not to be on their website to reach out to them via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ll work as quickly as possible to make necessary updates or remove them,” the spokesperson said.
Next time you order delivery through a third party app, though, it might be worth calling ahead to ensure the restaurant will actually fulfill the request.
“I’m reassured that it’s not just us,” said Mesnick. “I’m reassured that I’m in a boat with other people who have loud voices and are speaking up.”
As of January 28, Bite Squad (Website) is pick-up only in Orlando.
The delivery (or non-delivery) company notified local users earlier this week to notify them that they would no longer be offering delivery service in the area. They would, however, continue allowing users to order ahead at restaurants via their platform for arranged take-out orders.
There is no fee associated with arranging a pick-up at a participating Bite Squad restaurant.
You can get $5 off your pick-up order with the code “PICK5.”
A reason behind the move has not been made public.
Last night Pim Techamuanvivit discovered that Grubhub, Seamless and Yelp delivery services have fake listings for her San Francisco restaurant, Kin Khao, to accept food orders on their sites. Her restaurant does not fulfill the food for these orders. And DoorDash has a fake listing for her other restaurant, Nari.
Waitr, the Louisiana-based food delivery app, laid off some employees in Lafayette Monday morning, hours after the company put out a press release affirming its commitment to Lafayette by consolidating operations.
A spokesperson for the Lafayette Police Department confirmed an officer was at one of Waitr’s offices at 1100 Bertrand Drive because of the layoffs. Waitr leases space at The Daily Advertiser.
Waitr spokesperson Dean Turcol said there was no statement coming when asked about layoffs.
The company’s press release did not address the layoffs, but said it plans to retain 150 positions that were going to be outsourced to Mexico and will consolidate all Lafayette operations inside its headquarters facility within the first half of 2020.
Turcol said the company currently has two facilities in Lafayette: the one on Bertrand Drive and its headquarters in downtown. He said he did not have any information on when the company would be moving out of the space or if the consolidation would result in layoffs.
“One of our key strategic initiatives is the elevation of the entire customer experience,” said Carl Grimstad, the new CEO of Waitr. “We believe that one way to achieve that is to retain, as well as add to, our customer service and dispatch teams here in Lafayette, the heart of Waitr’s business. This will ensure the highest levels of service for our customers, drivers and restaurant partners.
“As we focus on providing a world-class customer experience, we will also continue to identify opportunities to ensure the proper alignment of employee expertise with our strategic initiatives,” Grimstad said.
Grimstad was named the company’s CEO in early January, and previously served as the chief manager of C. Grimstad Associates, LLC, a family private investment entity formed in 2006. He is also the managing partner of GS Capital, LLC, a family private investment company started in 1995.
Grimstad took over after former CEO Adam Price resigned Dec. 27, only a few months after being named to the job. Price had previously worked as the company’s chief operating officer before founder and former CEO Chris Meaux announced his retirement in August. Meaux is the chairman of the company’s board.
Grimstad served as the chief manager of C. Grimstad Associates, LLC, a family private investment entity formed in 2006. He is also the managing partner of GS Capital, LLC, a family private investment company started in 1995.
In 1999, Grimstad co-founded iPayment Inc., a credit and debit card processing company, and he served as the president of the company until 2011. In 2011, he became the iPayment CEO and chairman until 2016.
Waitr had a turbulent 2019. The year was marked by leadership turnover and layoffs. Two board members, the board president, the chief financial officer, the company’s founder and original CEO, and Meaux’s replacement at CEO all resigned in the last half of 2019.
In June, the company began a round of layoffs because of synergies after the Byte Squad acquisition. Days before the layoffs were announced, Meaux, the company’s founder and original CEO, was named the region’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
In July, several Lafayette and South Louisiana restaurants boycotted Waitr and expressed outrage over several changes the company made to its contracts with participating restaurants.
Meaux announced his departure in August, though he said he would serve on the company’s board. Meaux’s resignation coincided with the company’s second quarter earnings report, which showed Waitr missed projections.
Waitr reported a second-quarter loss of $24.9 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier. In that report, Waitr said it was looking into ways to increase value for shareholders, including a potential sale or merger, but ultimately opted not to pursue those paths.
The report came out Aug. 8, and the share price closed at $3.76. The next day, it fell by 50% and closed at $1.89.
Since that report, Waitr’s stock price continued to drift downward. In September, Waitr President Joseph Stough announced his resignation, and board members Sue Collyns and Scott Fletcher and CFO Jeff Yurecko followed in October.
In the third quarter — the first with new CEO Adam Price at the helm — Waitr lost $220.1 million, or $2.89 per share, after only losing $6.5 million in the third quarter of 2018. The result prompted the company to cease operations in 38 “clearly unprofitable” markets. None of the closed markets were in Louisiana.
After its stock price had been below $1 for 30 consecutive days, the company was alerted it was out of compliance with Nasdaq’s rules. A company has to stay at or above $1 to stay listed on the exchange.
Waitr has to record 10 consecutive days at or above $1 before June 1, 2020, or it will be at risk of being delisted. The company’s share price has not hit $1 since Oct. 17.
Restaurants across the country have been facing a peculiar problem: Delivery drivers show up to pick up orders the restaurant never knew about, and customers call to check in on orders the restaurant never received. These restaurants don’t actually do delivery, but they ended up on apps and delivery websites, anyway. The result is a mess of a situation for restaurant owners, diners, and delivery drivers alike.
A similar situation happened this weekend at the San Francisco restaurant Kin Khao, as chef-owner Pim Techamuanvivit wrote on Twitter. While managing the floor, Techamuanvivit answered a call from someone inquiring about his delivery order. After telling him that the restaurant didn’t do delivery or take-out—and had never done so—Techamuanvivit was surprised to find that Kin Khao was listed among delivery options on Seamless, Grubhub, and Yelp.
Per Techamuanvivit’s thread, she plans to speak with a lawyer with intentions of suing. “If you’ve made an order or got fake @KinKhao food via @Seamless, @Grubhub, or @Yelp..” she wrote, “….feel free to join me on this lawsuit. If you own a restaurant, especially a popular one, make sure you check these unscrupulous sites to see if they are faking your businesses on there too. This is horrid. Reckless. And just horrid.”
Techamuanvivit’s experience is the result of unauthorized partnerships by platforms like Grubhub and Seamless, which are both owned by Grubhub Inc., as the San Francisco Chronicle reported. While “most orders” on those platforms result from legitimate deals with restaurants, the company has also started adding popular restaurants to its sites without having formal business relationships in place.
That practice is resulting in mixed-up orders, long wait times, and inaccurate pricing as the diner, driver, and restaurant aren’t necessarily relying on the same information. Without communicating directly with the restaurant, delivery platforms may list incorrect menus or outdated prices. Plus, to Techamuanvivit’s point, this all takes control away from restaurant owners.
The problem is nationwide, and the situation extends past Grubhub and Seamless. In 2018, a Chicago restaurant called Burger Antics sued DoorDash for posting its menu and selling its food without permission, according to the Chicago Tribune, but that hasn’t stopped the app. Restaurant owners in Providence cited problems with unauthorized orders via Doordash and Postmates last year, and Philadelphia Magazine reported a similar situation earlier this month.
“The couriers walk in and we tell them we don’t even have an account with Doordash,” Judy Ni of Baology told Philadelphia. “And so they leave and they go outside and call the guest, and the guest doesn’t understand what’s going on—it makes us look absolutely terrible, and it becomes this mess of confusion for the guest.”
When it comes to cornering the delivery market, there’s growing competition, and that’s why these problems only seem to be worsening. In October, after Grubhub’s stock fell more than 40 percent in one day, the company announced that it had been working on expanding its restaurant network through informal partnerships, just as Doordash and Postmates had been doing.
Grubhub told Eater shortly after that this model would keep the platform from being at a “restaurant disadvantage,” but it acknowledged that “the non-partnered model is no doubt a bad experience for diners, drivers, and restaurant,” presumably because of the lack of shared knowledge between all parties involved in a delivery transaction. Regardless, the company added that models like this helped their peers grow, and ultimately, the goal of these delivery systems is to keep potential diners from going onto other platforms in pursuit of their dinner order.
It’s not the first time Grubhub has been tied to shady actions, either. In June of last year, New Food Economy found that Grubhub had been creating shadow websites of real restaurants. Those shadow websites linked to Grubhub’s delivery platform, which charges fees to the restaurant, while the real website used another delivery system. In August, a partnership between Motherboard and the podcast Underunderstood found that instead of connecting would-be diners with a restaurant’s actual phone number, Yelp pushed them to a phone number owned by Grubhub so that Grubhub could then charge restaurants a “referral fee.”
Delivery can seem like an easy solution, especially from a diner perspective, but it’s not really as simple as opening an app and hitting a button. The more separate we become from the people preparing our food, the more room there is for things to go wrong in the middle.
Pim Techamuanvivit was managing her San Francisco Thai restaurant, Kin Khao, Saturday night around 8:30 p.m. when she got an unexpected call. A customer was wondering when food from his order on the online food delivery company Seamless was coming, as he had been waiting 45 minutes.
“I think you must be confused because I don’t do delivery,” Techamuanvivit told him.
Techamuanvivit said the man then asked, “So what are you doing on Seamless?”
The restaurateur soon discovered that her restaurant had a page on both Seamless and Grubhub, another online food delivery company that merged with Seamless in 2013. The delivery sites listed her restaurant and its address with a menu that she does not serve, including pad Thai and, of all things in a restaurant that specializes in lesser-known Thai regional cuisine, Vietnamese pho.
“It’s outrageous. They can’t get away with this. They can’t totally fake a restaurant that doesn’t do delivery and go pick up food from, I don’t know, some rat-infested warehouse somewhere and deliver to my guests,” said Techamuanvivit, who added that she intends to sue Seamless.
A spokesperson for Grubhub said at midday Sunday that the company would soon respond to a request for comment.
The Chronicle reviewed the email the customer received from Seamless confirming his order for drunken noodles and Thai-style fried noodles (which Kin Khao doesn’t serve).
The restaurant was still on the delivery sites as of Sunday morning. In addition, Yelp’s listing for Kin Khao also offered delivery for a fee, and the delivery site Door Dash offered delivery from Nari, Techamuanvivit’s newer and more upscale Japantown restaurant, which also doesn’t offer delivery or takeout orders. A Grubhub ad offering delivery from Kin Khao is the first listing in a Google search for Kin Khao.
Bay Area restaurants have previously voiced criticism against food delivery companies like Grubhub for what they deem too-high delivery fees and feeling forced to partner with them to maintain competitiveness. Seamless and Grubhub did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.
Techamuanvivit said she briefly offered delivery for Kin Khao via Caviar, another online service, after the restaurant first opened in 2014, but during lunch only. She discontinued the service mostly because she couldn’t be sure of the quality of the food when the customers ultimately received it, and because it was a hassle, she said.
“The food is not the way that I want the food served,” she said. “I just prefer that somebody come in and sit down and have a proper meal.”
She did, however, put in an order for some food from the restaurant that Seamless claims is Kin Khao for Sunday around lunchtime. It’s due to arrive at 12:45 p.m.