As restaurants continue to operate on thin margins, food-delivery platforms are both hurting and helping local College Park businesses.
A class-action lawsuit filed in October in Chicago alleges that more than 150,000 restaurants are listed on Grubhub’s food-delivery site without the restaurants’ permission. Among them is Vigilante Coffee.
Chris Vigilante, owner of Vigilante Coffee, said being listed on food-delivery platforms without consent is “predatory.”
Unaffiliated restaurants are listed on food delivery platforms at no cost to the restaurant — unlike restaurants with partnerships — and orders are paid for in the same way as any other customer, according to a DoorDash spokesperson.
“It is a full-on problem, not just an inconvenience,” Vigilante said. “You’re creating frustration for a loyal Vigilante customer because they’re ordering through this app thinking it’s us giving them the green light.”
Vigilante Coffee has been listed on Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub and DoorDash without permission. On the DoorDash app, customers are met with a $4.99 delivery fee, 20 percent service fee and a menu including inaccurate seasonal items.
“Our products aren’t designed for transit, nor do we really like the idea of random people taking it from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’,” Vigilante said. “If you order a latte, you want to drink it fresh; it’s made to be consumed relatively fast.”
Vigilante says he is not interested in partnering with any food-delivery platform. With long wait times for deliveries, products might arrive to customers at a lower quality than if they had picked them up directly from the store. So, the coffee roaster does not make any orders that delivery drivers come to pick up.
“We truly believe that it downgrades the experience we provide,” he said. “We’re more interested in providing a stellar experience than we are making a quick buck.”
For some restaurants, being listed on the DoorDash app is considered a helpful trial toward a formal partnership that provides “additional benefits and services,” a DoorDash spokesperson wrote in an email. Restaurants not interested in being listed on their platforms can request to be removed, according to the DoorDash spokesperson.
But Vigilante says that the coffee shop’s numerous attempts to be removed from the food-delivery platforms were unsuccessful.
“It keeps happening — they don’t seem to actually remove us,” he added.
Though Vigilante is concerned that food-delivery platforms don’t consider how their actions affect small businesses and the customers waiting on their products, other local business owners believe that being listed on the platforms can be a saving grace.
“But when you’re only allowed 25 percent capacity indoors, it’s a different ballgame,” said Michael Chmar, co-owner of The Board and Brew.
Route 1’s Board and Brew is partnered with DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Postmates, and has its own point of sale system where online orders get fulfilled by DoorDash and The Board and Brew can keep the lion’s share of revenue, Chmar said.
“The reality for us is, ‘Why not?’” Chmar said. “If someone is a primary user of Uber or DoorDash or Grubhub, why would we shoot ourselves in the foot by not being on that platform?”
The Board and Brew has tried initiatives to drive business such as offering discounts on food-delivery platforms, Chmar said, but found that after the promotional period, only loyal customers returned.
“One of the biggest factors that really plays a part in all of this is the quality of the facilitator,” Chmar said. “If [Uber Eats] drivers don’t come on time, we suffer … because who does everyone blame? They blame the restaurant, even though it might not be us.”