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Grubhub promo gives customers $10 off, but it’s the restaurants that eat the cost

Grubhub's current campaign to support restaurants saddles them with the cost.
(Mark Lennihan / AP)

As it goes in any time of crisis, some companies will find a way to turn misery into money.

Restaurants around the state, banned from serving dine-in customers and struggling to stay afloat, have sounded the alarm on food-delivery apps, which they say charge hefty fees for their services — sometimes as much as 30% of the bill. The apps also profit on the diner side, levying service charges and other fees.

But restaurants that have chosen to remain open at this time have little choice but to use platforms like Grubhub, DoorDash, Caviar and Postmates to sell food. Many are urging customers to call them directly for to-go orders so they can avoid paying those fees; some are even doing deliveries themselves — despite the potential liability of using employees as drivers.

In recent weeks, to help businesses weather the prolonged shutdown, some of the delivery apps have reduced, delayed or eliminated fees for restaurant clients. But as it turns out, not all of those moves are purely an act of goodwill.

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Grubhub, which has deferred (but not lowered, nor forgiven) the tithe it charges restaurants, last week saddled its restaurant partners with another potential new cost, dressed up as a way to help businesses it calls “the lifeblood of our communities.”

The platform’s new “Supper for Support” promotion offers customers a $10 discount on orders of $30 or more during dinnertime. Sounds good, right?

But the fine print on the restaurant side says that businesses that elect to participate in the promotion will be paying that $10 discount themselves, and that “Grubhub commissions may be charged on the non-discounted product total rather than the amount paid by the customer.”

The promotion runs from 5 to 9 p.m. nightly.

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“I haven’t seen the fine print of that, but if that fee is getting tacked onto us, we’ll just turn the app off,” Stephen Sakulsky, owner of Osteria La Buca on Melrose Avenue, said on Monday. “We have five delivery apps I’m looking at right now, so losing one for four hours is fine with me.”

“The delivery apps as a whole — the fees have always been bad, and unfortunately, I think this is business,” he said. “Some of them are giving us help; some aren’t.”

A call and email to Grubhub were not immediately returned Monday.

Times staff writer Andrea Chang contributed to this report.


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