Vancouver Would Be Cooler If…It Had a Food Delivery App That Wasn’t Exploitive

Vancouver Would Be Cooler If is a column that advocates for things that exist in other cities that could serve to improve or otherwise celebrate life in our own.

These are dark days for our restaurant scene. Most of the establishments that are still in operation have aligned with food delivery apps in the hopes of making rent and keeping some key staff on board. This is a noble pursuit, and it behooves diners and gourmands to do what’s within their means to support these efforts.

It should be noted, however, that the major food delivery apps are feasting on our restaurants. Some are guilty of charging higher fees than others, and some have been very clever at making themselves look sympathetically supportive with special offers for new sign-ups and temporary commission-free in-store pick-ups. But let’s not mistake competition for compassion. To be clear, these apps were exploitive long before this virus made them essential. They’ve been digging deep into restaurants’ already razor-thin margins for years. It’s their business model. For sure, they provide a service, but every move is determined by profit, even the ones that appear supportive. I’m hardly a socialist, but I like to think I know right from wrong, and these companies don’t care about anything other than making money and securing more market share against their competitors.

To them, Covid-19 isn’t a crisis. It’s an opportunity.

Wouldn’t it be great if Vancouver’s restaurant scene was able to create an app for itself, one that wasn’t the least bit predatory? If the delivery charge/commission was kept to an absolute minimum and those doing the delivering were temporarily out-of-work cooks and front-of-house staffers, perhaps a stop-gap co-op system could sustain the resurrection of a wounded restaurant community when the dust clears. This isn’t my idea. There are some forward-thinking operators in Vancouver that don’t want the status quo to continue when the first round of this virus comes to a close, and I’m encouraged to hear that serious conversations are already taking place, if only in their exploratory infancy.

This column is traditionally about wishing Vancouver had fantastic things like trampoline bridges and public bake ovens, so I’m treating the idea of a restaurant-run food delivery app in a similar fashion. It might not happen. If it does, it will probably take time. So keep ordering take-out and delivery until something comes of it, and cross your fingers that it comes soon.

There are 19 comments

  1. Food delivery apps might be the most absurd sharing economy business model of the bunch.

    They manage to simultaneously:
    1) Eat up the profit margin of the restaurants
    2) Pay a pittance to their delivery drivers and cyclists
    3) Suck money of of the local economy
    4) All while losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

    In times other than this, they also raise the price of the meal for the customer by adding delivery fees on top of the price.

    Surely we can do better than the current set of options.

  2. As a long-time delivery driver for three of the major food delivery app services, I can say with certainty that I have not seen any significant increase in base pay nor in $/ km for us from resto to the customer. It therefore seems that the delivery app company is skimming more these days.

  3. Our Canadian delivery system is corrupt. Canada Post and armoured car companies enjoy federal protection from traffic laws. Our bicycle couriers are notorious and then, those taxis. Food delivery is always dependant upon lawlessness for profit. Just like Canada Post or couriers, the temptation is to cut corners. A profit is hard when laws are taken into consideration. So the current model for foo delivery in Vancouver is unrealistic and everyone looks the other way as the Motor Vehicle Act is completely ignored. No problem, but a thriving economy depends upon law-abiding sustainable healthy businesses and employees. It doesn’t work outside Vancouver, so let’s have the Board of Trade get to it and get real. Our shabby economy could use some brilliance and healthy coordination. It’s so bad with Canada Post, that Mayor Tory had to get them to promise not to block off lane in rush hour, in Toronto. Bike food couriers are as bad as David Eby’s 3 wheel political bike repairman.. A lawless city merits our compassion and coordination. We need satisfaction, but the Chamber of Commerce is it’s usual laggard self. Let’s go Greater Vancouver Board of Trade! Thousands of restaurant workers are waiting, with bated breath! Imagine, a well run thriving economy in Vancouver! Imagine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. These companies are the real money makers in the industry. No risk, almost no overhead and about 40% of the shares at the end of the day. They don’t lose money they just choose not to have any to tax.

  5. You are assuming a restaurant can operate entirely on delivery and takeout? What you are thinking of are ghost kitchens that are located in less desirable areas and have much less overhead.

  6. Their business model does not work any other way. The delivery companies also don’t make money because they also have razor thin margins. I think the bigger ones are hoping for a winner takes all scenario.

  7. A recent VERY disappointing experience I had with DoorDash highlights why this is a brilliant idea. I placed my order at 5:00pm. At 5:43pm I received an email from DoorDash stating “We wanted to let you know that your order from XXXXX Cafe was cancelled because the store is now closed.” The restaurant was NOT closed. I immediately contacted DoorDash support to find out why they would say the restaurant was closed and cancel the order, when they are still open. The agent said “it’s more than likely the restaurant got too many walk-ins and couldn’t fullfil your order, so they cancelled it.” I then contacted the restaurant to ask them if they did this. I spoke to the owner who explained they are barely staying alive with the virus situation and that they most definitely did NOT cancel my order. She found the order details and confirmed the food was made and sat waiting for pickup by DoorDash, which never happened. She said they lost the revenue for my order and had to toss the food out – although she said they gave it to the homeless. I then contacted DoorDash to ask them why they lied about saying the restaurant cancelled my order because they were closed – never heard back. Pretty unethical business practice at a time when small businesses in our great city are barely staying alive through this crisis. I am all for this idea, and hope it succeeds and DoorDash loses as a result.

  8. Not really. I’m thinking about what’s next, how the restaurant scene operates in six months or two years, after the threat of Covid-19 has lifted.

  9. I deliver food by Bike for one of the major international food delivery apps. My main reason for getting in the business was for fitness not making money! I have issues with self discipline when it comes to fitness. This job forces me to get off my lazy butt no matter what the weather and ride my bike around for six hours a day and get a little financial compensation for my efforts. I think there are many pros and cons to the food app world the bottom line for me is that convenience sells! A friend of mine owns a burger shack and businesswise he says there’s not a lot of profit made through the food apps the main benefit is that it keeps inventory moving lowering food waste. Let’s face the facts people when you were having a low energy day it’s always a good thing to be able to pick up the phone and dial up a steak and prawns dinner with a couple of bottles of wine my somewhat selfish wish is that those who use this system can afford it!!!

  10. The world absolutely needs a federated co-op model, for both rideshare and delivery services. This is an idea I have been thinking about for a while.

    We don’t need CEOs taking profits because they are the owners of a simplistic app that does location-based matching of business and customer. Co-op model app would be super easy develop and could give both business / laborer and customer all of the profits back!

    Bryan
    regenerationit.com

  11. As a restaurant owner, I can say without any reservation that the 3rd party delivery services have been nothing short of a nightmare to deal with both pre COVID leading up to now. Recently they have reached a new level of dysfunction with a lack of profit margins notwithstanding. We’ve had customers call us asking why we cancelled their order when we didn’t. When we enter a prep time based on the number of orders we have already, the app will arbitrarily shave 40% off the time we’ve entered with no ability to correct the time short of getting in a 30+ minute cue to speak with someone so scripted that it might as well be a computer. Drivers show up early, irate and usually taking more than one order for the same delivery. I’ve even had a customer reach out after cancelling an order because the driver went from Mount Pleasant to the West End when the destination was 5 blocks east. After cancelling, Doordash still wouldn’t refund their order.
    I dont want this to be a verbal lynching of the drivers because at the end of the day that are just trying to earn for themselves and their family’s too.
    I fear that the culture of these apps and the convenience of them to the consumer is irreversible. I am currently forced to use these services despite employing my out of work front of house staff to deliver because of the revenue that potentially represents being able to stay open.

  12. Restaurants should just do their own delivery like the old days. The waiters could be turned into drivers.

  13. I would purposely use an app or service like this even if it was a bit buggy/less convenient. Money paid should go to restaurants and delivery people and who is getting what should be transparent.

  14. In Ottawa we have tried to create our own model called Love Local Delivery http://Www.lovelocaldelivery.com where the criteria to join is that you are an independently owned Restaurant, we partnered with Responsible Choice (local driving company that would normally drive you and your car home if you had had too much)
    Local businesses helping local businesses

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