The True Cost of Convenience

The restaurant industry is in crisis. And while delivery apps were quick to rush in and position themselves as a lifeline for restaurants at the start of the pandemic, one of the more surprising side effects of COVID-19 is how many consumers, restaurants, and even governments are finally realizing the destructive power of delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash, and Uber Eats. There’s been consistent coverage of their detrimental impact on workers ever since the phrase “gig economy” was first uttered, but the pandemic has increased the public’s awareness of exactly how they harm the restaurant industry.

Over the past several months, restaurantsconsumers, and even senators are protesting the apps’ common practice of charging punitive 20 to 30 percent commission rates for every order. City legislators around the country are stepping up to ease the burden, with New York CityLos Angeles, and others temporarily capping fees at 15 percent per order during the pandemic. (Some cities, like San Francisco, are considering making those caps permanent.) Many diners now see these services’ true colors: By deferring fees for restaurants instead of waiving them during COVID-19, keeping sole authority over when the waiver period ends, and imposing mandatory one-year contracts on those who defer fees, their interests are to maintain their ironclad grasp over restaurants.