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.