Some Grubhub drivers are no-shows, N.J. restaurants say. ‘This might just put me out of business.’

The food is ready, but no one picks up the order. Customers get frustrated after waiting an hour for their driver to arrive, then have to settle for refund.

Rinse, repeat.

That’s what some New Jersey restaurants say has been happening when customers order delivery from Grubhub.

Food delivery has proven to be a lifeline for both customers and restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic, but in recent days and weeks, there have been significant glitches with drivers employed by the delivered service, restaurant managers and staff say.

Würstbar, a purveyor of sausages, hamburgers, beer and poutine in Jersey City, experienced one problem after another with Grubhub on Saturday night. The restaurant would get orders ready, but some drivers never showed up. The drivers, however, would mark the food as delivered.

“It happened about 10 times all within the same period, with the same drivers,” owner Aaron Kahn told NJ Advance Media Sunday. “We’d call the (drivers’) numbers and it’d be a disconnected line.”

He suggested that the drivers, who seemed to be changing their profile pictures but operating under the same names, might be using burner phones.

Worst of all, he said, all of this was coming to a head around 8:30 p.m., a peak time for orders.

“It’s been happening all week, but last night it happened a lot, to the point where had to shut Grubhub down completely,” he said.

The restaurant also uses UberEats. Now, he’s thinking about signing up for DoorDash.

“We are probably 80 percent delivery — maybe even 85 percent — 15 to 20 percent people calling or picking up.”

Kahn opened the restaurant almost four years ago. Now, he fears he may have to shut down.

Grubhub problems
Aaron Kahn, owner of Würstbar, says the business is already struggling as is, without the added stress of delivery problems.Würstbar

He started up Grubhub delivery again on Sunday, only to see the same problems recur.

“It happened twice now, same driver changed his profile picture,” he said. “I have to shut down deliveries again. This might just put me out of business.”

“A driver will get a notification that an order is in their area and they’re accepting the responsibility of getting the order and immediately marking it as delivered,” Kahn said. He wonders if those drivers are still receiving their delivery fee, despite never having delivered the food.

People waited up to an hour, only to learn their food was never coming.

“They were reimbursed (by Grubhub) but they’re still hungry,” he said. The restaurant also gets to keep the money from the sale of the food, but that does not fix the problem, Kahn said.

NJ Advance Media reached out to Grubhub. A spokeswoman said the company would be looking into the Würstbar deliveries.

“These are serious allegations,” she said in a statement. “We are treating them with the utmost importance and doing a thorough investigation. We have zero tolerance for this type of alleged misconduct. The vast majority of our orders are completed without incident or complaint, but when things don’t go as planned, we appreciate hearing feedback and work hard to make it right. If a restaurant partner ever has an issue with a delivery partner, they can specify that the driver no longer picks up from their restaurant through their Grubhub for Restaurants portal.”

Earlier this month, Grubhub announced it would temporarily suspend the collection of $100 million in commission payments from independent restaurants, in light of the pandemic and its effect on business.

Kahn said he’s often faced long waits to speak to Grubhub support, but flagging the drivers in question hasn’t put a stop to the no-show problem.

Surf Taco
Surf Taco’s Hoboken location is among the restaurants that have been affected by Grubhub driver issues. SJN

“All of sudden, the same person is taking orders again,” he said.

Kahn said he’s also gotten conflicting answers about the source of the problem — one representative told him it happens all the time, while another seemed unaware of the issue. He said his account adviser has yet to get in touch.

“I’ve never seen it like this before. We’ve used Grubhub for three years now,” Kahn said. “We’re scared to turn it on.”

But Kahn and other restaurant owners are hard-pressed for other options in a climate where dine-in customers are not a reality, and not everyone feels comfortable venturing outside for takeout. He’s thinking about sticking with the app but bringing in a third-party delivery company. Still, in a rough time for business, it’s another worry he didn’t need to have.

“I feel really bad for these customers,” he said, especially when refunds don’t ensure it won’t happen again.

At Tony Boloney’s in Hoboken, home to pizza, pasta and subs, the Grubhub problem is a familiar one.

“Last week I had some orders and the driver was accepting it as saying he would pick it up and he never came to the store,” cashier Jefferson Brito told NJ Advance Media. Five orders were affected, and five refunds were issued, he said.

Brito said a manager had been in touch with Grubhub about the no-shows, but it happened again on Sunday.

“They get mad at us,” he said of customers. “It’s not on our end. It’s Grubhub’s end.”

“Some weeks it’s worse than others,” Brito said.

Just a few blocks away, the issue has played out over the last few weeks at Jersey Mike’s Subs.

“They (the drivers) just don’t show up and the customers will call us and complain and say I ordered it an hour ago,” said assistant manager Andre Wilson. Staff will usually tell customers to cancel the order or get a refund, he told NJ Advance Media.

“This is every day that it’s been going on like this,” he said.

The scenario is all too familiar at yet another Hoboken restaurant, Surf Taco. A driver will say a customer received the food when the restaurant hasn’t even made the food yet.

“That happens a lot,” manager Meghan Kiernan told NJ Advance Media. “I think people are scamming Grubhub. It’ll be a fake (driver) picture and the same accounts keep happening.”

“On Friday, I had the same thing,” she said. “I had almost 10 orders sitting here with the same driver.”

As for reporting to Grubhub?

“We brought it to their attention numerous times,” she said. “The people get banned but then they just make a new account with a new name and phone number.”