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Restaurants plead with customers to abandon delivery apps

24May 2020

When Pitas and Sticks, a Greek restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, gets an order from Grubhub, owner John Stamos gives each bag a personal touch, printing out a small note with a simple message: Grubhub orders are killing his business.

“Small businesses like us need your support in this time of crisis,” Stamos writes in each note. “Online apps such as GRUBHUB ARE CHARGING US 30% of each order and $9 or more on orders made using phone numbers on their app or website … please help save the restaurant industry by ordering directly with us.”

Restaurateurs like Stamos are mounting guerrilla campaigns to persuade customers to skip the delivery platforms they say are squeezing their businesses at a particularly difficult time. Some are looking to use social media to get the word out or coming up with special offers. Others are ditching the apps altogether.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Outside a Bareburger restaurant in Brooklyn, a new sign appeals to passersby: “Support your local restaurants & order directly with them.”

IMAGE: Bareburger restaurant in Brooklyn (Jason Abbruzzese / NBC News)
IMAGE: Bareburger restaurant in Brooklyn (Jason Abbruzzese / NBC News)

Restaurant owners are trying to figure out ways to stay in business during the coronavirus pandemic, which has hammered their industry. Many restaurants have had to close their doors to customers, while others have turned to food delivery apps such as Uber Eats and Grubhub to fill the void.

That’s meant a sudden focus on delivery companies and the broader food delivery economy, which has faced its own difficulties. Grubhub, which also owns Seamless, and DoorDash are the biggest services, with Uber Eats and small competitors like Caviar also in the mix. But few of them have figured out how to make much money. Amazon, a company that many would consider an expert in e-commerce and logistics, tested the market and left about a year ago.

Stamos said that 90 percent of his online orders come from Grubhub and that the company has been forcing him to pay “extraordinary commissions.” He said that he’s been trying to get off the delivery apps since he started his restaurant five years ago but that the pandemic has dramatically tightened the squeeze.

Other restaurateurs have also complained — and attracted the attention of city politicians.

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