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COVID-19

“Delete the delivery apps,” say restaurants hard hit by COVID-19

Jasmine Garsd Apr 16, 2020
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Food delivery orders have doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak began, according to the website Yelp, Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

“Delete the delivery apps,” say restaurants hard hit by COVID-19

Jasmine Garsd Apr 16, 2020
Food delivery orders have doubled since the COVID-19 outbreak began, according to the website Yelp, Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Chef Ashish Alfred owns several restaurants in Maryland. He said he’s never had a problem with delivery apps — he just saw them as bringing in extra business. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Alfred now relies solely on delivery. And, he said, with apps like Seamless and Grubhub that charge as much as 40% in fees, “It’s a huge, huge chunk of our money. Especially because people are just, for the most part, using this money to pay their staffs.”

According to the website Yelp, food delivery orders have doubled since the outbreak began. Many restaurants are closed. Business is now almost entirely delivery. And tension is growing between the restaurant owners and the delivery apps.

A class action lawsuit filed earlier this week alleges that companies like Grubhub, Uber Eats and Postmates charge restaurants exorbitant fees, which, in turn, force restaurants to hike prices up for people who dine in. 

Postmates and Uber Eats did not respond to requests for comment. Grubhub declined to comment.

Now Alfred is one of many restaurateurs asking customers to delete those apps.

“Look up your favorite restaurant, give them a call, see if they will deliver to you, and if they don’t deliver and you can’t leave the house, then do what you need to do.”

Professor Douglas Miller of Cornell University understands some of the difficulties small restaurants are having right now but, he said, they have bigger problems than app fees.

“For most independent restaurants, [it’s] very small margins,” he said. “So I think them being closed is a bigger issue than using apps.”

Still, Rutgers University associate professor Rebecca Givan said this crisis might shake up the entire food app industry.

“We’re at a critical juncture where one of the questions is whether these companies will be able to continue essentially ignoring all regulations, whether we’re talking about monopolies and price gouging or whether we’re talking about how workers are treated,” she said.

This week, San Francisco enacted an emergency cap of 15% on delivery apps. Several New York City lawmakers are pushing for a 10% cap.

“The mayor and the governor have the power to shut down in-house operations of bars and restaurants during an emergency, so they should be able to use those same powers to institute a cap on those delivery apps,” said Justin Brannan is, a New York City councilman.

Plenty of restaurants won’t make it through this economic crisis. Brennan said there’s no need to squeeze them even harder. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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