Is there a wrong way to do takeout? Some restaurateurs say yes. The issue involves third-party apps—think Postmates, Grubhub, DoorDash and the like—that provide convenience to customers but don’t always give restaurants a fair shake.
“My particular issue with these apps is that we have not provided permission to partner with them,” says Clay Nutting, owner of Canon, the upscale East Sacramento restaurant that has pivoted to doing a brisk takeout business in the wake of the pandemic. “Our restaurant is better suited for a different type of service than the third–party apps can provide.”
Nutting detailed how certain apps post outdated menus, leaving customers and delivery drivers in the lurch. The restaurant is then burdened with explaining to the driver—who often shows up unannounced to place an order—that it is unable to fulfill the request. The restaurant might then get dinged with a negative review for something that was completely out of its control. “It creates a customer experience that is not one that we invited,” explains Nutting.
There’s also the issue of commission. The app companies take a sizable bite out of every sale, sometimes to the tune of 30 percent of the bill. That’s a huge cut in an industry known for its slim profit margins. “Some consumers don’t realize how much of a commission these apps are taking from restaurants,” says Nutting. “There are people out there wanting delivery but don’t know that it could be hurting a business.”
That’s not to say delivery apps are always a bad thing. “I think third-party apps are a perfect solution for many restaurants,” says Nutting. “If the restaurant wants more delivery business and they think something like Postmates is a good market for them, then that’s the price that they pay.”
So where does that leave diners who want to enjoy chicken curry on a Wednesday night without the aftertaste of a guilty conscience? Nutting says ordering directly from the restaurant, either by phone or a platform on their website, is the answer. “If you order through those restaurants directly and pick up curbside, you are likely helping that business immensely.”