The Number One Problem With Ordering Takeout From A Food Delivery App

There's no doubt that food delivery apps make things extremely easy. Already commonplace before the pandemic, their use skyrocketed once COVID-19 hit and diners shifted from eating out to ordering in. For some restaurants, using the services of these delivery platforms was the lifesaver that kept them in business during shutdowns. Even in the new post-pandemic reality, the popularity of restaurant delivery via apps remains high. 

As much as we depend on the simplicity they offer, there are some drawbacks to using these apps. Whether it's Grubhub, Caviar, DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats, Seamless, or any of numerous other options out there, you're almost guaranteed to be spending more. This is due to delivery fees, processing fees, etc. — you're basically paying more for the convenience. But you might not know about a much bigger problem with these services — the extraordinarily high commission fees they charge the restaurants that you order from. 

Each of the delivery companies set their own contracts and fees, but on average, restaurants pay up to 30% in commissions and other fees in order to be listed on the delivery apps. With your intentions in the right place, supporting a restaurant by ordering from them on an app, the reality is that the business may only receive 70% of what you paid, with the rest going to the corporation that facilitated the transaction.

The high cost businesses pay for food delivery apps

As the food industry attempts to recover from the mandated closures during 2020 and 2021, some customers are still reluctant years later to return to indoor dining. While delivery app companies have grown to be a multi-billion dollar industry, most of the restaurants that rely on them are not faring as well.

Apps like Grubhub and DoorDash have come to dominate the way many people find places to order from in their communities. Traditional methods of advertising and even social media reach cannot compare with being featured on the home screen of Uber Eats. Restaurants that don't utilize delivery apps risk being invisible, and the only way for them to get this exposure is to pay hefty fees to sign up for these services and relinquish an even heftier amount of profits for each order. 

It's not as simple as just opting out of the platforms, either. Setting up in-house delivery systems is not only complicated, but also expensive — it requires staff members dedicated to taking phone and online orders, processing payments, dealing with customer service issues, hiring dependable drivers, and paying exorbitant insurance rates. For many mom-and-pop restaurants, these costs are out of reach. Even so, those that do offer their own delivery are likely to find their business idling as people have become accustomed to opening up an app when they feel like ordering in.

How to help restaurants keep their profits

There's no need to feel guilty about using your favorite delivery app. Restaurants you order from are always grateful for your business. However, there are steps you can take to ensure the eatery gets as much of what you're paying as possible. Restaurants will benefit the most when you order from them directly. Before you check the Seamless app on your phone to browse the menu for the new Indian place down the street or search for the best vegetarian Thai green curry within your delivery radius, check your local restaurants' websites or social media pages first. If they have their own online ordering, place your order that way. If they don't, give them a call — they can take your order over the phone and may offer delivery.  

If they don't deliver, consider getting takeout. While it's not as effortless as delivery, you'll save on fees when you pick up the food and you might also save on upcharges. In many cases, to make it feasible to be on a food delivery app, restaurants will raise prices for the menu items listed on the apps. When you buy your food from the restaurant without the middleman, you'll pay the non-inflated price. Sometimes the only way to get a certain restaurant's food delivered is to go through one of the apps. When this happens, check to see if they recommend any of their preferred apps to use, and go with that one, as it's likely where they have negotiated the best rates.