An update on Restaurant delivery services

A reader reached out and asked me to share his experience with other residents as a warning. His story was about delivery issues and fees when using Uber Eats. (Scroll down to find out.) The problem reminded me of stories I heard about a bigger problem related to provisioning apps. The normally high fees reduced the restaurants’ already decimated margins.

Some of you may already know this. But others may not have given it much thought.

The reader’s “warning” caused me to remember that in the spring I was promoting the apps and informing residents of all of Southborough’s restaurants that had used them. Now I feel compelled to share the disadvantage that I didn’t know then.

I’m not saying that no one should order food through apps. If you want to choose between ordering a delivery or not ordering, restaurant owners would surely prefer to use the app. However, if you want to support local restaurants, take the time to collect orders direct if you can.

[For a reminder of restaurants in our town and links to their information, click here for my Southborough business listings.]

Of course, some pizzerias offer their own delivery service. But most restaurants rely on popular new apps to do this. This summer and fall, I heard stories about the challenges that services bring to the industry.

A recent opinion piece published in the NY Times, Apps Help Relieve the Restaurant Industry, summed up the situation that has evolved during the pandemic:

Some restaurants have focused more on delivery, especially from app-based companies like DoorDash, UberEats, and Grubhub. Few restaurants that had failed to deliver in the past have had the time or money to create their own delivery service, which typically pays less than dining rooms where customers tend to order more profitable products like starters, desserts, or a second Round drinks.

These restaurants quickly realized that the apps, with their high fees and strong tactics, can be a temporary lifeline, but not a savior. Fees of 30 percent or more per order cut the wafer-thin edges of restaurants to the bone. And a stimulus package that would strengthen the industry has stalled in Congress, even as states and municipalities set new boundaries for indoor and outdoor dining.

Regarding which delivery service to use or not to use, a reader’s message shared his troubling experience with Uber Eats:

Uber Eats is promoting a major ad campaign and offering specials via email that seem very good. I recently replied to one of the grocery delivery emails. To cut a long story short, the driver drove past my house, his car with the meal, turned around in one of the neighbour’s driveways and left the street. He never got out of the car but replied on the Uber Eats app that he had delivered the food. He never called me and when I tried to call him the response was “system error”.

It took me a long time to figure out how to report the problem. This is the first problem in and of itself. When I reached them … and I never got a name from anyone, they agreed to credit the cost of the meal but refused to credit the cost of the tip … which in this case was $ 8.41.

If you look up the rating for Uber Eats (Google Uber Eats rating only) you will notice a lot of stories like mine. If you use them and they fail to ship your product … which seems to be very common, you will not get a full refund. In this case, I contacted the credit card company and charged them back.

I did the suggested search and found a lot of lousy reviews including on Facebook, Reviews.io, and others. To be fair, for the latter website, I also found similarly low ratings for DoorDash and GrubHub, and there was no place on Facebook to post reviews for them.

Also, I would expect more users to look for a place to leave a review when they are angry than when they are just happy. And I found an article on Business Insider that was written by someone who rated Uber Eats as better than the other two services.

Nevertheless, I share the warning – buyers watch out. Trying to save time by having your meal delivered could leave you on an empty stomach and waste more time than you imagined.

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