The coronavirus pandemic has, for now at least, dramatically altered the way Americans shop and eat. While social distancing and stay-at-home orders have blown a massive hole in the restaurant industry—the CEO of the reservation website OpenTable recently warned that one in every four restaurants may never reopen—deliveries have skyrocketed. According to finance magazine Barron's, restaurant delivery sales are up 70 percent from where they were at the same time last year, and orders are on average 24 percent bigger than they used to be.
Delivery services like GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash may be racking up orders, but the restaurants actually making the food are feeling the squeeze. As middlemen, those delivery services charge fees and commissions to the restaurants they work with, sometimes as high as 30 percent in cities or states that haven't regulated them, according to the Los Angeles Times. One especially notorious example: Chicago pizzeria owner Giuseppe Badalamenti shared his March invoice from GrubHub, and after commissions, fees, adjustments, and promotions, he was left with a mere $376.54 of his restaurant's $1,042.63 sales.
Related Video: Running a Restaurant During the Coronavirus Lockdown
At least one restaurant has been able to strike back, though. In the tech industry newsletter Margins, Ranjan Roy writes about getting contacted by a friend, who owns a pizza shop, for help. Despite never agreeing to work with DoorDash, Roy's friend discovered that there was a DoorDash-linked "order delivery" button on the restaurant's Google listing. And it was causing him headaches:
DoorDash was causing him real problems. The most common was, DoorDash delivery drivers didn't have the proper bags for pizza so it inevitably would arrive cold. It led to his employees wasting time responding to complaints and even some bad Yelp reviews. But he brought up another problem—the prices were off. He was frustrated that customers were seeing incorrectly low prices. A pizza that he charged $24 for was listed as $16 by DoorDash.
That price discrepancy is the result of DoorDash scraping data from the restaurant's website—because of the layout, DoorDash was pricing a specialty pizza ($24) the same as a basic cheese one ($16). If a customer ordered the specialty pizza, they only paid $16 to DoorDash, while DoorDash had to pay the full $24 to the restaurant when they picked up the pizza. In other words, it's the perfect recipe for a short grift.
Roy crunched some numbers and found that if his friend ordered 10 pizzas himself, he'd make about $10 in profit after the cost of ingredients. But if he just put topping-less dough in the boxes—after all, he's not going to complain since he's the one receiving the delivery—the profit jumps to $75 for every order of 10 pizzas. Roy's friend reportedly tried this for several nights, partly because they were both curious to see how long it would take DoorDash to notice. Apparently, they never did.
"Was this a bit shady?" Roy writes. "Maybe, but fuck DoorDash. Note: I did confirm with my friend that he was okay with me writing this, and we both agreed, fuck DoorDash."
Like other delivery apps, DoorDash relies on gig workers, for whom they don't have to provide insurance, among other things. Despite those absurdly low labor costs and the heaps of commissions restaurants have to pay, delivery services are still struggling to actually turn a profit—DoorDash, for example, lost $450 million last year. And while Uber claims that UberEats is its most profitable division, UberEats lost $460 million in just one quarter in 2019.
Originally Appeared on GQ