The definitive guide to food delivery app trickery

Jacob Dean
·3 mins read
A Grubhub ad on a phone screen reading, "You'll use an app to find love but not to order a gyro? Explain."
A Grubhub ad on a phone screen reading, "You'll use an app to find love but not to order a gyro? Explain."

Typically The Takeout’s Hot Links stories are dedicated to sharing articles from journalists and websites that have done such a great job with their research and reporting that you really should just read the entire story in order to get the full picture. And, because Twitter is the birthplace and repository of a significant amount of digital evil in the world, rarely does that rubric apply to posts from that particular website. Today, though, we’re making an exception, and we strongly recommend that you direct your attention toward a thread from Cory Doctorow, who has written a concise, authoritative guide to why food delivery apps represent an enormous threat to the restaurant industry, and why you should avoid using them.

Doctorow, a blogger, novelist, and technology activist who is a special consultant to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has really gone all out in this thread, highlighting the malfeasance of this particular corner of the tech industry. While this is an issue we’ve covered before, Doctorow’s clear, insightful description is so utterly damning, and so detailed, it should be widely held up as a response to any person who erroneously claims that free market capitalism is the reason these platforms are thriving.

While you should (pretty please) just read Doctorow’s thread, a basic, not-at-all-complete summary includes factoids such as:

  • “A pizzeria owner discovered that Doordash had put up a fake delivery page for his restaurant and was selling his pizzas for less than he charged for them...to become a gatekeeper to the restaurant, by offering lower-than-cost pizzas to this guy’s customers and then threatening to divert them to a rival unless he paid ransom to Doordash.”

  • Tech companies have shortchanged restaurants by “Merging dozens of companies (online menus, delivery services, etc) into a single giant, then doubling its fees.”

  • Delivery app companies work by “Creating fake websites for restaurants, then using SEO to make them the top results on Google, and tricking customers into ordering through an app company instead of a restaurant.”

  • Companies are “Imposing anticompetitive contracting terms on restaurants prohibiting them from offering discounts for in-person dining or own-driver delivery.”

  • Companies are “Punishing restaurants that refuse to pay for upsell ‘marketing services’ by banishing them from app search-results.”

Doctorow’s summary, which is made up of 21 tweets, is so damning it’s hard not to feel ill while reading it, but please don’t let that stop you from consuming his content. If you’ve ever had any doubts at all about the harm caused by these third party delivery services, just read the thread.