Some restaurants are relying on food delivery apps to stay open, but are they ultimately damaging to the bottom line?

Posted at 10:58 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-02 12:31:34-04

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With restaurants unable to let patrons dine in, many use carryout or delivery services to survive the coronavirus pandemic. There's a debate in the local food scene, though, about whether apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash are ultimately good for business. Those apps have waived order fees for customers, but that's costing the restaurants a good chunk of their sales.

Cincy Steak and Lemonade on Short Vine was hit hard when the pandemic prompted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to close bars and restaurants.

Right now, food delivery services are keeping owner Said Chllal's business afloat.

“Honestly, it helps a lot. I’d say over 60 percent, almost 80 sometimes,” Chllal said. “Without DoorDash at this time, we’re not going to open. We’re going to close.”

McK’s Chicks, a barbecue restaurant in Covington, is in the same predicament. Manager/cook/last guy standing Howard Blakely said apps like DoorDash, ChowNow and Grubhub have been lifesavers.

“I think they’ve picked up our business,” Blakely said.

Other restaurant owners like Jose Salazar said delivery apps come with drawbacks for the business that most customer's don't know about. While many apps dropped delivery fees for customers, many are still charging the restaurants as much as 30%.

“If you sold 1,000 dollars worth of product, they take 300 out of it," Salazar said.

He said delivery services have gone from about 5 to 25% of his business' sales. Salazar said he understands the delivery services have to make a profit, too, but he said the best way to support local eateries may be to pick the food up yourself.

“A lot of the third-party companies are making themselves seem as if they’re helping the restaurants when, in fact, they’re really not,” Salazar said.

When asked for comment, Uber Eats said:

“We know the coming weeks will be challenging for many small business owners, and in order to sustainably support our partners through the evolving crisis, we considered a number of options. Among other things, we've focused on driving demand towards independent restaurants on Uber Eats by waiving our Delivery Fee to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining.”