Food delivery apps have been the salvation for restaurants—and laid-off workers—during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the promotions and fees charged by the likes of Uber Eats and GrubHub are bleeding restaurants dry. According to the Washington Post, one restaurant with $1,043 in food sales was left with just $377 after GrubHub’s charges for delivery, commission, processing, and promotions.
The food delivery startups’ #eatlocal and #keeprestaurantsopen promotions are exploiting customers’ generosity. Customers aren’t really helping out local restaurants as much as they may think. WIRED notes,
Uber Eats has waived delivery fees to consumers on most phone orders but still charges a 25% commission on orders from restaurants it partners with.
On a normal Wednesday night, [one Miami restaurateur] would expect roughly $5,000 in revenue. This Wednesday, the total was $665. Of that, $523 came through delivery apps, primarily Uber Eats. Those commissions totaled $131, leaving him just $534 to cover rent, plus the cost of food and staff. His typical daily overhead is about $3,000. With reduced staff, it’s now $1,200—more than twice as much as his revenue Wednesday. “It’s not sustainable,” he says.
Uber Eats isn’t the only company accused of trying to capitalize on the crisis. GrubHub’s “Supper for Support” initiative, meant to encourage buying from local restaurants, drew widespread criticism. The deal offers a $10 discount on certain orders between 5 pm and 9 pm, but restaurants that opt in cover the discount, and GrubHub still charges its commission on the full price.
Customers ought to know about these apps’ deceptive business practices and be able to make meaningful choices about patronizing local businesses.
In 2018, food delivery raked an estimated $161BB in sales worldwide, and the potential market size has attracted a great deal of startup funding. En bloc, the food delivery business has struggled to sustain itself profitably. The restaurants are particularly agitated, not least because food is a low-margin business, and the fiercely competitive meal-delivery firms just can’t recompense restaurants and riders as much as needed.
Idea for Impact: If you want to support your local businesses, patronize them directly. Call your order in. Pick up the order yourself or get your food delivered by the restaurant itself. Cut out the intermediary.