Tech roundup: Grubhub is changing its controversial phone call system

The company will stop charging restaurants for calls that don't relate to an order. Also, more tech suppliers launch tools to help navigate vaccination policies, and another YouTube celeb starts a virtual brand.
Photo illustration by Nico Heins

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Grubhub will change how it handles phone calls to restaurants next week following controversy over its current system.

Starting Aug. 23, Grubhub will use a call center staffed by its own employees to field some incoming calls. When a customer dials the Grubhub-generated number on a restaurant’s listing, they’ll have the option to either place an order, ask a question about a previous order, or ask any other questions. 

The first two options will route the caller to a Grubhub representative. The third option will connect the caller directly to the restaurant.

Currently, all phone calls placed through Grubhub are routed directly to the restaurant. Sometimes the caller just wants to ask a question without placing an order, and restaurants have complained about being charged by Grubhub for those calls. Under the new system, calls that are routed to the restaurant will not carry a charge.

“We’re always looking to make the ordering experience easier for restaurants and diners,” said a Grubhub spokesperson in a statement. “That’s why we’re offering this new, assisted way for diners to order from Grubhub’s restaurant partners to replace phone orders, while still enabling diners to reach restaurants directly to ask questions or confirm information.”

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance and a frequent critic of third-party delivery companies, referred to the new system as “more trickery from Grubhub.”

“Restaurants should be able to opt out of the controversial phone ordering system if they don’t want a ‘Grubhub’ phone number that requires they pay fees,” Rigie said in a tweet following the news.

OpenTable will help restaurants keep track of which guests have been vaccinated. The reservations platform will allow restaurants to tag diners as “verified to enter” once they’ve met the necessary requirements for dining on-site, including being vaccinated against COVID-19. Those guests will then be cleared for entry in the future at that restaurant or other restaurants in the same group. The new system will launch later this month, and builds upon other tools OpenTable has added to help restaurants navigate the latest COVID-19 surge.

SpotOn also unveiled a new way for restaurants to manage vaccination policies. Restaurants using the tech supplier’s reservation system can now ask customers to confirm their vaccination status when they are making a reservation. The idea is to both communicate a restaurants’ policy upfront and allow the restaurant to know a party’s status in advance, easing the verification process at the door. Restaurants can choose to make vaccination mandatory in order for a guest to even make a reservation.

MrBeast Burger’s parent company tapped another online celeb for its latest brand. YouTube star Larray is the face of Larray’s Loaded Mac, a new delivery-only restaurant from Virtual Dining Concepts. The menu was inspired by Larray’s memories of cooking with his grandmother and features seven mac and cheese varieties as well as brownies and drinks. Larray has 40 million followers across YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, giving him a sizable platform from which to promote the new concept. 

Larray’s Loaded Mac is now available in most major markets across the country, Virtual Dining Concepts said. Restaurants can work with the company to bring the menu into their kitchen as a delivery-only offering. 

Larray's Loaded Mac foodPhotograph courtesy of Larray's Loaded Mac

Slice introduced a tiered service system for restaurants. The tech provider for pizzerias is now offering three packages with varying tools. They are:

  • Essentials: Restaurants are listed on Slice’s online marketplace of pizza shops.
  • Premium: Restaurants get online ordering including a custom website as well as more visibility in the marketplace and automated marketing.
  • Complete: Restaurants get the full Slice tech stack, which includes Slice’s integrated point-of-sale system, payment and delivery management tools.

All of the packages come with some level of marketing support. Each tier will continue to operate under Slice’s fixed-cost per order model, the company said.

In case you missed it ...

Sweetgreen hired a former Starbucks tech exec as its CTO.

Online ordering is having a good summer.

Why Olo has its eyes on the drive-thru.

Picnic's pizza robot is available to restaurants for the first time.

Kiwibot and Sodexo are bringing robot delivery to three colleges.

Burger King's parent invested in a home-cooking platform

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