Food delivery apps: Should you use them?

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Food delivery apps are becoming increasingly controversial, as some restaurants around the country blame third-party apps for running them out of business with "exorbitant" commission percentages, going as far as to place ads discouraging patrons from using them. Meanwhile, apps like DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats say they are on the restaurants' side, and that without them these businesses would not have as wide of a reach in terms of customer sales volume.

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As restaurants across the country remain largely closed for in-person dining and instead rely heavily on delivery to serve their customers, the question plaguing patrons and restaurants alike is whether or not to use third-party delivery platforms when ordering food.

As for consumer app use, people appear to enjoy the convenience. App use went up 10 percent since the pandemic hit.

As for consumer app use, people appear to enjoy the convenience. App use went up 10 percent since the pandemic hit. (iStock)

Three of the most popular platforms — DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats — have their pros and cons, as far as using them over calling the restaurant directly and placing an order.

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In an effort to help during the crisis, DoorDash cut its commission fees in half and, on Thursday, launched its “Main Street Strong” initiative, which will allegedly allow restaurants to better grow and “own their digital” identity. Uber Eats temporarily stopped charging delivery fees for more than 100,000 independent restaurants in an effort to help when the crisis first began.

However, hard commission caps, which have been implemented in several cities across the U.S., have been vehemently opposed by Grubhub, claiming they would hinder restaurants' earnings.

As for consumer app use, people appear to enjoy the convenience. App use went up 10 percent since the pandemic hit.

The three most popular platforms – DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats – have their pros and cons as far as using them over calling the restaurant directly and placing an order.

The three most popular platforms – DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats – have their pros and cons as far as using them over calling the restaurant directly and placing an order. (iStock)

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According to a spokesperson for Grubhub in an interview with Fox News, consumer data has suggested that diners prefer having their information all in one place, instead of having to sign-up for multiple services. Also, being able to select one’s meal via app instead of having to call in and speak to someone has been listed as a benefit by multiple users, the brand claims.

However, according to some restaurant owners, apps like Grubhub and DoorDash are running them out of business with commission fees and acts like cybersquatting (which Grubhub has denied), and menu scraping — something DoorDash has been accused of, which involves listing a restaurant’s menu with DoorDash as its preferred delivery service, without having talked to or received consent from the restaurant.

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Restaurants have spoken out against predatory practices and “exorbitant fees” associated with their businesses using the apps, claiming they are making it impossible for local businesses to stay afloat.

In an effort to help during the crisis, DoorDash cut its commission fees in half and, on Thursday, launched its “Main Street Strong” initiative, which allegedly will allow restaurants to better grow and “own their digital” identity.

In an effort to help during the crisis, DoorDash cut its commission fees in half and, on Thursday, launched its “Main Street Strong” initiative, which allegedly will allow restaurants to better grow and “own their digital” identity. (iStock)

“When the delivery platform takes 30 percent, it means almost all restaurants that are using the delivery platforms are running at break-even or actually at a loss for every time you place an order," Travis Stoliker, co-owner of Saddleback BBQ in Lansing, Mich., said previously to the Lansing State Journal.

Grubhub denied similar allegations to Fox News, instead blaming high rent and taxes in places like NYC for any restaurants struggling to make a profit — and not Grubhub's commission fees, which it says are used for delivery costs and marketing.

Restaurants have also complained of Grubhub’s telephone services, where Grubhub lists a telephone number for a specific business/restaurant, but the call instead goes through Grubhub. The app then charges the business for each order placed via these numbers. According to the brand spokesperson, this practice is part of the app’s marketing for the business. However, restaurant owners have claimed this is misleading, as Grubhub is charging them for customers who intended to call the business directly — and were instead forwarded to Grubhub.

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So, should you order through a delivery app? In the end, there is no cut-and-dry answer to the delivery debate. If convenience is most important when choosing food delivery, or a preferred restaurant doesn't offer it otherwise, then apps will likely be the preferred method. But if your reasoning for ordering delivery is to support your favorite local restaurant, it's likely best to listen to what their preference is — which might be just picking up the phone and ordering takeout.

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