By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Dec 17, 2019 at 2:01 PM

Everyone loves the convenience of online delivery. But it’s time to think twice before ordering your lunch or dinner through Grubhub, Postmates or DoorDash.

That’s because all three of the companies have enacted a new practice: adding restaurants to their delivery roster who’ve never signed up to partner with them.

Doing things without restaurants' permission isn't new, per se; but it's becoming more widespread. Eater has been following the national third-party delivery drama, which dates back to 2015 when In-N-Out Burger sued DoorDash for delivering its food without permission (not cool, DoorDash, not cool).

This October, it noted that the questionable delivery practices had been adopted by Grubhub, as well, even disclosing a letter sent to shareholders outlining the plan and the reasons behind it.

Milwaukee is not immune

Over the weekend, a number of Milwaukee restaurants that don’t offer delivery through Grubhub were surprised with delivery orders from the corporate third-party delivery service.

Similar scenarios have been experienced by countless other eateries including Dandan, Goodkind, Lowlands Group restaurants, La Merenda and Barnacle Buds. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Why should you care?

There are so many reasons.

First, your experience when ordering from a restaurant that didn’t sign up for delivery service is bound to be less than ideal. In many cases, the menus listed are wildly outdated (Vanguard’s listing has a menu posted from three years ago), so you’re unlikely to be able to get the items you order.

Secondly, since the restaurants aren’t expecting to fulfill deliveries (since they never signed up for the service), they are unlikely to be able to respond efficiently to the orders. And – in some cases – they won't receive the orders at all.

In all likelihood, you’re going to pay more than you’d ordinarily need to for orders that take longer to arrive and are more likely to be inaccurate. And, when you complain about your terrible experience – likely on Yelp or social media – you’ll be unfairly blaming a restaurant for something over which it had little or no control.

What you should do

If you order through a third-party site, make sure you’re ordering from a restaurant that’s actually partnered with that delivery service.

Even then, you should understand that ordering through that service is taking a chunk out of the profits for that restaurant (which pays up to a 30 percent fee for that food to be delivered). You’re also paying a fee for that delivery. So, guess who’s making all the money? The delivery service itself.

What's the better alternative?  Order directly from the restaurant itself. Yes, this might mean you have to pick up your food; but your experience is likely to be a thousand times better. And you’ll be contributing directly to the restaurant's success and bottom line.

Also be aware that some restaurants don’t offer carry-out and delivery. Usually there’s a good reason for that. Respect their decision. And make it a point to eat at the restaurant, rather than complaining about not being able to get its food delivered.

GrubHub’s Response

Grubhub’s response to a query about the situation confirms that it is, indeed, adding unsuspecting restaurants to its ordering platform.

"To help restaurants drive additional online delivery orders and revenue while giving diners even more options for delivery, we are adding non-partnered restaurants in a number of our markets, including Milwaukee. Should a restaurant not want to be on our platform or need to change any information like menu items or hours, they should reach out to our care team and we'll be happy to make necessary updates or remove them."

Apparently Grubhub’s end goal isn’t to create angry restaurant owners (or customers), though that’s likely the outcome. In fact the company (mistakenly) hopes that restaurants who receive orders from their unauthorized listings will be delighted with the new business and sign up as a Grubhub partner.

It’s also good that they’re "happy" to remove any restaurant that contacts them and asks to be taken off their platform. Unfortunately, it places the burden on individual restaurants to proactively monitor the delivery service’s listings. And, based on anecdotal evidence from restaurants who have attempted to eliminate their listings from service web sites like Grubhub and Postmates, it can take a week or more to resolve the situation.

In the end, it’s just bad business.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.