Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 140 Toronto restaurants have closed.
Indoor dining and patio services are no longer allowed and restaurants must rely on takeout and delivery to keep afloat. To facilitate this, many restaurants have turned to third-party delivery apps, such as Uber Eats.
“As a new business, they offer different promotions that kind of help boost you out there. If you’re an everyday Joe scrolling through your app they bump you up for someone to see and click on,” Raul D’Souza said.
D’Souza, the Chef du Cuisine at Ration Food Lab at The Beverley on Toronto’s Queen Street East, said the eatery uses apps like Doordash and Uber Eats to promote its recently opened business and facilitate deliveries.
“They set everything up for you, send you a photographer… they use their own drivers, and their interface is easy to use,” D’Souza said.
But despite the ease of use and convenience for customers, there are many drawbacks to using third party delivery services.
“Twenty per cent is still a lot. That’s 20 cents on every dollar coming out of our pocket,” D’Souza said.
To entice customers to take out through the restaurant, businesses such as Ration Food Labs give discounts to customers who pick up the food themselves through curbside pickup.
But as the lockdown drags on, other alternatives to third-party delivery apps are becoming available for businesses and customers.
“We pretty quickly realize that it [Uber Eats], it’s not a really good deal,” Roger Yang said. “Not just because of the commissions … it’s detrimental to the restaurant’s image and the customer service.”
Yang is the creator of LocalEats.to, a co-operative of Toronto restaurants that handle their own deliveries.
“Uber is commoditizing the food and it takes away the character, the things that make restaurants unique and interesting. That is detrimental to the whole industry. I think we need to have alternatives,” Yang said.
Websites such as LocalEats.to and Not UberEats give restaurants an alternative platform to sell their food, without paying commission.
“We need to see how we can help restaurants market themselves and how they can make a more fair delivery process … it doesn’t make sense for restaurants to be barely surviving or not making a profit on delivery,” said Randy Singh, the creator of Not UberEats, a website that catalogs more than 100 Toronto restaurants and allows direct ordering from customers.
Using websites like these is beneficial not only to the restaurants and community but also to the customers.
“We hire people selectively,” Yang said. “We make sure to equip them with equipment like insulated bags that can carry pizza. This results in just a better experience for the customer … food’s more likely to get there warm. And in one piece.”
Singh said customers will see a slightly lower bill by ordering directly.
“You have delivery fees, service fees, and whatnot, you notice your bill ends up being quite high on delivery apps. So, normally when you order directly it’s actually quite a bit cheaper,” Singh said. “If you care about your community, especially during this time, making sure restaurants stay open is important.”