Let’s say you order food from your favorite restaurant. You use Grubhub or another online platform, like DoorDash or Uber Eats, to have it delivered.
You may assume that the restaurant has a business relationship with that delivery service.
But that’s not always the case.
Increasingly, restaurants in Central New York have been complaining that they’ve been listed on the third-party online platforms without their permission or even knowledge. That’s on top of long-standing gripes about the commissions the delivery services charge when they are partnered with restaurants.
In the last week, local businesses like Tangy Tomato Pizzeria on Burnet Avenue, Peace, Love and Cupcakes in Armory Square and Exhale Café and Bake Shop in Camillus have taken to Facebook to air their grievances, specifically at Grubhub.
They argue, among other things, that customers are being misled. They say the Grubhub links often include outdated or incorrect menus, hours or prices.
And they point out that if something bad happens during the delivery, like a crushed burger, a cold pizza or a dropped carton of pasta that has dirt on it, the restaurant takes the blame.
Altogether, it creates confusion and can put the restaurants in a dangerous legal position, they say.
“This is such a violation and I am outraged,” Rebecca Riley of Peace, Love and Cupcakes posted on Facebook Friday. She only discovered Grubhub was taking orders for her shop that day when a driver showed up carrying a marked bag.
“We know whose hands are touching our food because it’s only my husband (Chris) and myself here,” said Riley, whose shop is at 121 W. Fayette St . “Lots of things can happen when someone else touches it, and we don’t even know.
Maria Rotella, owner of Exhale bake shop in the Township 5 development, agreed.
“It’s not a money issue, it’s a liability issue,” she said. “If something happens that’s on me, not Grubhub, and I had nothing to do with it.”
Exhale even closed down briefly Friday to sort it out after discovering they’d been added to the Grubhub site that morning.
“We’re very small, and I didn’t have time to stay open and deal with this,” Rotella said. “So it hurt business. And they were pretty rude when I called.”
At Tangy Tomato, one of the major issues for co-owner Melanie Austin is that Grubhub “upcharges” customers without permission from the business.
“We were added back onto their site yesterday without my consent,” Austin posted on Facebook Saturday. “We had several drivers show up looking for their deliveries last night. They are calling the restaurant on behalf of the customer and placing the order, asking for a total and then upcharging our customers. They tried to over charge a few of our customers last night by 21,18, and 13 dollars.
“Please call us directly,” Austin continued. “We no longer use Grubhub as of December 1st due to their lack of customer service, horrible delivery, over charging our customers, and many other reasons.”
Riley agreed. “This is about our customers,” she said. “A cupcake through them (the delivery service) might be $13. We don’t charge $13 for a cupcake and never would.”
Through a spokesperson, Grubhub said it “places restaurants on our platform to offer diners variety and to generate more orders for the restaurants.” They hope to partner with those restaurants (and charge commissions) later.
Grubhub only started adding non-partners to its site about a year ago, after other competing services had already done so.
Restaurants are advised to email the site at email@example.com to request removal. The Grubhub spokesperson said this week that Exhale, Tangy Tomato and Peace, Love and Cupcakes have all been removed from the site.
But that’s not always permanent. Maria Metthe, who owns Salt City Coffee with her husband Aaron, said she’s had to make multiple requests with Grubhub. Salt City started at 509 W. Onondaga St. and now also has locations in Marshall Square Mall and at the new Salt City Market (where it has a bar, too.)
“They put us on the site, with old menus, out of date pricing and things like that,” Metthe said. “And we have no idea.”
Riley at Peace, Love and Cupcakes initially tried to get off the Grubhub site on Friday, but found nothing had changed on Saturday.
“I spent another hour on the phone with Grubhub today because we were still showing up, and not only were we showing up, the menu is incorrect and our hours were completely wrong,” Riley posted on Facebook Saturday. “This could be disastrous and it would all fall back on us. What they are doing is wrong on so many levels.”
The practice of adding restaurants to the platforms without advance notice or permission does not appear to be illegal in most states. The idea is that the delivery services do it to show the restaurants that they can help drum up more business. Then they can enter into a real partnership, in which they charge commissions for their service.
In January, California adopted a law prohibiting the services from placing restaurants on their site without permission and an actual partnership. That led to “tens of thousands” of restaurants being dropped from the sites in California, sf.eater.com reported.
The commission restaurants pay to delivery services can be as much as 30% of the price of the meal, which many restaurants say either causes them to lose money or do no better than break even on a sale.
In December, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced executive orders capping delivery fees to no more than 15% of the bill. It’s not clear how effective that has been.