A reader reached out and asked me to share his experience as a warning to other residents. His story was about problems with delivery and charges when he used Uber Eats. (Scroll down for that.) The issue reminded me of stories I’ve been hearing about a bigger issue related to delivery apps. The typically high fees cut into restaurants’ already decimated margins.
Some of you may already know this. But others may not have given it much thought.
The reader’s “warning” prompted me to recall that back in the spring I touted the apps, letting residents know all the Southborough restaurants using them. Now I feel compelled to share the downside that I didn’t know then.
I’m not saying no one should order food via apps. If the choice between is between ordering delivery or not ordering at all, I’m sure restaurant owners would rather you use the app. But if you are interested in supporting local restaurants, I’d urge you to take the time to pickup orders directly when 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 pizza places offer their own delivery service. But most of the restaurants rely on popular new apps for that. This summer and fall, I started hearing stories about the challenges the services are creating in the industry.
A recent opinion piece in the NY Times, Apps Are Helping to Gut the Restaurant Industry, summed up the situation that developed during the pandemic:
some restaurants turned more of their attention to delivery, particularly from app-based companies like DoorDash, UberEats and Grubhub. Few restaurants that hadn’t done delivery in the past had the time or money to create their own delivery service, which typically brings in less money than dining rooms, where customers are more apt to order more profitable items like appetizers, desserts or a second round of drinks.
These restaurants have quickly found that the apps, with their high fees and strong-arm tactics, may be a temporary lifeline, but not a savior. Fees of 30 percent or higher per order cut eateries’ razor-thin margins to the bone. And a stimulus package that would bolster the industry has stalled in Congress, even as states and municipalities enact new limits on both indoor and outdoor dining.
As for which delivery service to use or not use, a reader’s message shared his troubling experience with Uber Eats:
Uber Eats is promoting a large advertising campaign, and offering specials via email that seem to be very good. I recently responded to one of the emails for food delivery. To make a long story short, the driver drove by my house, with the food is his car, turned around in a neighbors driveway, and left the street. He never got out of the car, but responded to the Uber Eats app that he had delivered the food. He never called me, and when I tried to call him, the message back was “system error”.
It took a long time to figure out how to report the problem… which is the first problem in and of itself. Once I reached them…and I never got a name of a person, they agreed to credit the cost of the meal but refused to credit the cost of the tip…which is this case was $8.41.
If you look up the review for Uber Eats (just google Uber Eats review) you will notice many stories like mine. If you use them, and they fail to deliver their product… which seems very common, they will not give you a full refund. In this case, I contacted the credit card company and billed them back.
I did run the suggested search and found lots 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.
Plus, I would presume that more users are apt to look for somewhere to post a review when they’re angry than when simply satisfied. And I found a piece in Business Insider written by someone who reviewed Uber Eats as better than the other two services.
Still, I’m sharing the warning – buyer beware. The attempt to save some time by having your food delivered could leave you with an empty stomach and wasting more of your time than you imagined.