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Restaurant Business tests third-party delivery services

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You know what sucks? Paying an astronomical fee for a service many restaurants would happily forego if consumers weren’t voting for it with their dollars. First it was that profit-eating must-have of OpenTable. And now comes third-party delivery, an amenity you’ll need to find a way of affording if you’re unwilling to lug meals to homes and offices yourself. And that advice comes from the toughest, most cynical and fad-averse consumers you’ll ever find: the editors of Restaurant Business.

We’d been writing about third-party delivery services for almost a year. Yet, as avid as we are about trying new restaurants and the chains we cover, our coven of scribes realized we’d only used one of the new-age deliverers with any regularity: GrubHub.

It was time to take one for the team. Five members of our team gathered at our remote testing center (a.k.a. my condo) to try six different delivery services. We downloaded the necessary apps and placed our orders at the same time. Since there wasn’t a restaurant served by all of the deliverers, nor a menu item common to all six platforms, we limited our choices to sandwiches for the sake of comparability.

Read on for the specifics, but here’s the really bad news: As consumers, we found the worst of the tested services to be very good, and the best to be life-changing, and that’s no exaggeration. We may be journalists by day (and the occasional night), but we’re hard-core users of restaurants in our civilian lives, and these services won our affinity after just one try.

That may translate into incremental sales for places that participate, but the hit to margins is not insignificant. While DoorDash doesn’t charge a service or marketing fee, it does collect a percentage of each order it takes. April Coyners, a representative of Postmates, says it similarly takes a commission—around 15 to 20 percent—on the total cart.

According to Eater.comAmazon and Uber take an even bigger bite: a quarter of sales for Amazon, and a 30-percent commission for Uber, though those charges could not be independently confirmed.

Here’s the customer experience they deliver for those fees. Each attribute and the overall score is based on a one-through-five rating system, with five being the best score.

UberEats
DoorDash
Postmates
Amazon Prime Now
Eat24
Grubhub

UberEats

wow bao delivery

Overall Score: 4
Restaurant/order: Wow Bao; chicken teriyaki bowl and bao
Ease of ordering: 5
Delivery time: 4 minutes

“Jaw dropping,” said one tester of UberEats. “It takes a lot to surprise me, but this did,” said another.

The selection is small—only two restaurants with a few options each. The delivery radius isn’t that big. But the fact that our tester (who already had the Uber app) placed an order in two clicks and the food showed up four minutes later makes UberEats a very desirable option for a hungry diner.

And no, that’s not a typo. Our bao were at the door four minutes after the order was placed. Well, not quite at the door—we had to run down and meet the driver in the street. While she was well-dressed and polite, it wasn’t ideal to have to trek over the snowy sidewalk into the street to reach the woman handing the Wow Bao bag through her passenger-side window. But at least, like traditional Uber, the name of the driver, a photo and license plate all were provided, a built-in safety element when walking up to a strange car. (By the way, she had soft-sides warmers on her passenger seat, so when orders come in, the food is already prepared and in the car, so it can be on its way fast. Shockingly, the temperature of the food was still acceptable.)

Would we use this service again? The overwhelming response was, “Hell, yes.” When the very limited menu doesn’t allow for any customization, if there were something we wanted on that list, none of us would hesitate. Too bad it’s not available on the weekend.

DoorDash

door dash cemitas pueblas delivery

Overall Score: 4.75
Restaurant/order: Cemitas Pueblas; milanese and al pastor cemitas
Ease of ordering: 5
Delivery time: 24 minutes

The app itself downloaded quickly, and it was “a breeze to use,” said a tester. Directions were clear, and moving through the ordering process was intuitive. Although there were a lot of restaurant options to choose from, they were not sortable (nor were they completely alphabetical), so we likely missed a lot of restaurants at the bottom of the list.

But once we picked the restaurant, the rest was easy. There were customization options (for a $1 upcharge on each ingredient), and there was also a note at the bottom of each individual item selected that asked: “If the restaurant runs out of this item, what do you want us to do? Contact you, cancel the order, refund the item or go with the merchant’s recommendation.”

While there was a service charge and tip included, the fee was identified upfront and a large tip screen clearly gave the options of tipping 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent or something else.

Once the order was placed, in-app and text follow ups were frequent and easy to read. Not only was there a confirmation and follow-up texts, but an order tracker showed every step, from food being prepared to the “dasher” (we got his name in the app) arriving. To boot, five minutes after the food arrived, a “How’d we do?” text message was sent.

One downside was that we had to register to place an order; there was no option to do it as a guest. Clearly, the service wants to get customer information. It, too, was the only app that features a $5 Refer a Friend button.

Estimated wait times were completely inaccurate, but in a good way. Our meal was quoted at 47 minutes, but it showed up in 24. Granted, the screen that popped up once the order was placed warned us that “We often arrive early, so be near your phone” 20 minutes early.

One other DoorDash feature we didn’t notice elsewhere: The service allows users to preorder food for the next day from several restaurants. 

Postmates

nonnas delivery

Overall Score: Just under 5
Restaurant/order: Nonna’s; chicken Parmesan sandwich, meatball sub
Ease of ordering: 4
Delivery time: 33 minutes

Like DoorDash, Postmates offered an app that was quick to download, and creating an account was simple. Also the same, it has a geo-location feature to find the address for delivery on its own—saving users from the need to type in more info.

The most unique part of Postmates is how the restaurants are organized. Besides being listed by price, restaurants are grouped in categories such as “healthy bites,” “what’s hot” and “noodles.” Plus, it is timely and takes advantage of what’s going on—it had a National Pizza Day section on the day of our test.

One thing that caught us off guard was surge ordering. We ordered at prime dinnertime, so the fee was 1.5 times the normal delivery charge. Between the gratuity for the driver and the inflated $7.50 delivery fee, the charge for the actual service added up. Good thing we didn’t see any delivery minimums. 

Postmates was all about keeping us informed along the way. The name and picture of the driver came up once the order was placed, and it showed, in minutes, how long it took to prepare food. We were also able to track the driver on a map once he picked up the food. What was surprising was that at the zero-minute mark, when the food should have been there, the delivery time was re-estimated upward. Good thing we weren’t waiting for him outside.

Amazon Prime Now

umami burger delivery

Overall Score: 4
Restaurant/order: Umami Burger; manly burger and umami burger
Ease of ordering: 3
Delivery time: 26 minutes

It’s been less than a month since Amazon launched its restaurant-delivery service in Chicago, so the number of restaurant options is limited to just 74, compared to hundreds on most of the other sites. But we were quite content with the options provided, given that many were Chicago hotspots we’d visited in the past.

The ordering process itself was not intuitive. We had a difficult time trying to figure out exactly how to start, and it took another few minutes to figure out you had to be an Amazon Prime member. Once our tester got started, though, she didn’t have a problem. And she liked that she could customize her meal, in this case with buttons where she could specify the temperature of her burger and quick-click buttons for any add-ons and sides.

She also enjoyed the new member’s perk of free delivery on Order Number One, so the normal fee was factored out of the tab. One thing she didn’t initially notice on her bill: a $5 tip. She wasn’t asked to provide an amount, and it was listed at the bottom, under the tax.

But the driver deserved the tip. Amazon claims one-hour delivery, but our burgers showed up in less than half an hour … and they were still hot. Looking out the window, other than Uber, we could see that Amazon’s delivery guy was the only one who brought food in a car, versus on a bike. Maybe that had something to do with the appropriate food temperature.

Eat24

shrimp po boy

Overall Score: 4
Restaurant/order: Big & Little’s; shrimp banh mi po’boy
Ease of ordering: 3
Delivery time: 44 minutes

With more than 550 options, Eat24—Yelp’s entrant into the delivery game—wasn’t the easiest or most intuitive third-party system we tried, partially because is was difficult to narrow down the many choices. A sandwich search turned up nearly 60 options. But it was a plus to be able to sort by delivery minimums (set by the restaurants) and Yelp ratings.

Eat24’s app is separate from Yelp’s, but it does link to Yelp photos and reviews—something our tester found very useful.

Once the restaurant was selected, ordering was pretty simple. In fact, this was the only app we tried where we could order as a guest versus having to create an account. As for the food, there wasn’t an option to customize, so selections went quickly. One thing that surprised our tester: Eat24 takes both credit and Apple Pay. “If I can use Apple Pay and not have to take out my wallet, that’s huge,” she said. Even if that includes a $4.99 delivery fee plus a tip.

And one thing that we didn’t take lightly: Eat24 had the friendliest delivery man, by far.

Grubhub

simply it delivery

Overall Score: A low 3
Restaurant/order: Simply It; banh mi
Ease of ordering: 2
Delivery time: 60 minutes

Despite being the service that we’d all used in the past, we were thoroughly disappointed once we tried the others as points of comparison. Not only did GrubHub have the highest minimums for delivery, it also was the only third party to hit the one-hour mark. “It’ll be a last resort … or if there is a certain item that only they deliver,” said one tester.

The only five that GrubHub scored was in the “range of menu choices” category. It has a great breakdown of restaurants by category, which is helpful with the sheer number of choices. It also has an order-tracking function, but compared to the other services, it was rudimentary, at best.

While GrubHub did get dinged for its slow delivery time and an app that wasn’t the most intuitive, we also took points off for the appearance and attitude of the delivery guy. Unlike other services, where bike messengers easily pulled our order from their bags, this guy was slightly disorganized. And he showed no interest in trying to engage in polite conversation while he set down his bag to dig around for our meal. Pretty crazy that we had to tip this guy, on top of the $4 service charge and the $20 minimum.

Scorecard

 

UberEats

Delivery charge: n/a
Time from order to receipt: 4 minutes
Ease of ordering: 5
Driver appearance: 4
Driver attitude: 5
Overall experience: 4

 

DoorDash

Delivery charge: $4.99
Time from order to receipt: 24 minutes
Ease of ordering: 5
Driver appearance: 4
Driver attitude: 4
Overall experience: 4.75

 

Postmates

Delivery charge: $7.50
Time from order to receipt: 33 minutes
Ease of ordering: 4
Driver appearance: 4.5
Driver attitude: 4.5
Overall experience: Just under 5

 

Amazon Prime Now

Delivery charge: $0
Time from order to receipt: 26 minutes
Ease of ordering: 3
Driver appearance: 3.5
Driver attitude: 4.5
Overall experience: 4

 

Eat24

Delivery charge: $4.99
Time from order to receipt: 44 minutes
Ease of ordering: 3
Driver appearance: 4
Driver attitude: 5
Overall experience: 4

 

GrubHub

Delivery charge: $4
Time from order to receipt: 60 minutes
Ease of ordering: 2
Driver appearance: 2
Driver attitude: 2
Overall experience: Low 3 


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