When Adam Mesnick, the owner of Deli Board on Folsom Street, saw a courier enter his restaurant and bypass the line of already waiting customers, he was perplexed.
Grubhub bag in hand, the delivery driver said he was expecting to pick up an order for Allison C. The problem was, Mesnick said, the order had never been received.
One of his employees eventually refunded the order, but the same thing happened three times on Saturday afternoon. A courier for Grubhub would walk in, looking confused and expecting an order that hadn’t been prepared. One delivery driver in particular was upset: he had driven 15 miles out of his way only to find his order wasn’t there.
That day, Mesnick did a little research. He discovered Deli Board was among a growing number of restaurants that had been added to Grubhub’s website without prior consent. Not only that, but menu items were also outdated — “there was some kind of soup I did two years ago,” said Mesnick, along with a sandwich called the “Dollar Sign” they no longer serve — and the pricing was inaccurate.
“I’ve made hundreds of sandwiches. I make specials every single day. I’m constantly recreating and changing menus,” Mesnick told SFGATE over the phone Sunday. “Sometimes I have extra turkey, sometimes I don’t. We have unexpected changes, but this wasn’t my current menu at all.”
Stranger yet, his restaurant hadn’t willingly partnered with any sort of delivery service since 2010. That was Postmates, and he said he stopped working with them when Deli Board, at the time a catering company, moved into their brick-and-mortar location a year later.
On Sunday afternoon, he confirmed at least seven of the sandwiches listed on Grubhub’s menu for Deli Board were not currently available.
“Could it have been the ultimate blunder of food delivery?” he wondered aloud, adding he planned on calling Grubhub to have his restaurant removed from the app. He also put a sign up in the front window letting Grubhub drivers know his restaurant was not affiliated with the service. “It’s time-wasting, and it’s someone’s job. It really creates so much confusion for the workers.”
Mesnick’s restaurant wasn’t the only one caught in the midst of the confusion. Greg Lutes, chef and co-owner of 3rd Cousin in Bernal Heights, told SFGATE he also found his restaurant listed on Grubhub for “delivery only” with an outdated menu from 2018.
“We don’t offer delivery at all. We’ll occasionally do takeout,” Lutes said.
While Lutes hasn’t seen any Grubhub orders come through, he said a Postmates courier stopped by his restaurant a month ago for one such takeout order after receiving several robocalls from the company asking if 3rd Cousin was open. “It’s almost like counterfeiting. It was like they hacked our restaurant,” he said.
Both Mesnick and Lutes said they never would have looked up their restaurants on the app had they not seen a tweet from fellow chef and restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit.
In a thread that has since gone viral, she said she was working at her Michelin star restaurant, Kin Khao, on Saturday night, when she received a request for delivery over the phone. Puzzled, she told him her restaurant didn’t offer delivery or even takeout.
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“What were you doing on Seamless then?” he reportedly asked. The food delivery app is also owned by Grubhub.
In the thread, Techamuanvivit said she had “googled Kin Khao delivery,” and sure enough, the restaurant was listed on Grubhub and Seamless as well as Yelp, accompanied by dishes that weren’t actually on the menu.
“We just became aware of this practice, and have taken immediate steps to ensure it does not extend to restaurants’ Yelp pages,” a Yelp representative said in a statement.
One of Techamuanvivit’s other restaurants, Nari, was also on Doordash.
“They’re so hungry to get your money, they don’t care who makes the food they’re delivering to your home. It can be some rando dirty warehouse somewhere. Because they sure are not picking up the food from @KinKhao,” she wrote.
Techamuanvivit did not respond to SFGATE’s request for an interview, but a Grubhub spokesperson confirmed the menu they had listed for Kin Khao on their app was incorrect and the restaurant had since been removed from their marketplace.
But why was it there in the first place?
A couple of months ago, the spokesperson explained, Grubhub began adding “high demand” restaurants to their website for those restaurants to receive more orders and revenue from deliveries completed by Grubhub’s drivers. Menu information and restaurant hours — although proven inaccurate, in many cases — were based on information found online.
According to the Grubhub spokesperson, their team orders ahead or in person from the restaurant, after which one of their drivers picks up, pays for and delivers the order.
“Out of the 140,000 restaurants we partner with, diners increasingly want delivery. If a restaurant doesn’t want those orders, we’re happy to remove them,” the spokesperson told SFGATE over the phone.
When asked why Grubhub didn’t reach out to restaurants in advance to avoid confusion or misinformation, the spokesperson said, “We want to give our diners as many options as possible and as quickly as we can,” adding their goal was to provide restaurants with a surge in revenue; ultimately encouraging them to want to stay on the platform. Grubhub reportedly provided more than $5 billion in gross food sales to local takeout restaurants in 2018, processing an average of more than 400,000 orders a day.
“The vast majority of our orders are and will continue to be from these restaurants we partner with,” the spokesperson said. “It’s our aim to bring the best delivery experience possible while balancing the interests of our diners, restaurants and drivers, and complying with all local laws and regulations in connection with our business.”
Grubhub is asking restaurants that prefer not to be on their website to reach out to them via email at email@example.com.
“We’ll work as quickly as possible to make necessary updates or remove them,” the spokesperson said.
Next time you order delivery through a third party app, though, it might be worth calling ahead to ensure the restaurant will actually fulfill the request.
“I’m reassured that it’s not just us,” said Mesnick. “I’m reassured that I’m in a boat with other people who have loud voices and are speaking up.”