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Grubhub and other delivery apps face backlash over unauthorized restaurant listings

Garrett Snyder, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

LOS ANGELES -- Last week, a random Google search led Andrew Munoz to a Grubhub page offering delivery from Moo's Craft Barbecue, a smoked meat pop-up that specializes in peppery beef brisket and jalapeno-cheddar sausages.

But there was one problem: Munoz is the chef and owner of Moo's. As far as he knew, Moo's had never fulfilled a delivery order during its three years in business. And there was no way delivery was available each day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., as the website promised; Moo's only sold barbecue on Sundays at the Smorgasburg food festival and during events at local breweries.

"I was surprised that (the Grubhub page) had a full menu, pretty accurate pricing, and what seemed to be recent photos of our sausage, brisket, ribs, sides, more than half the menu. It made me wonder who set it up," Munoz said. "My initial concern was someone was selling out of another restaurant and using our name to deceive customers."

Then, the story got weirder. Munoz placed an order through Grubhub app for his own barbecue, set to be delivered to the commissary kitchen where he prepares food for Moo's.

Almost immediately he was able to track the delivery driver through the app, noticing that the car seemed to circle ROW DTLA -- the shopping complex adjacent to Smorgasburg -- before canceling the delivery. The order was then passed to another driver who went through a similar loop-de-loop and eventually marked the food delivered, despite no ribs changing hands.

After attempting to contact the driver, Munoz said he reached out to Grubhub support to receive a refund. He also expressed concern that his business wasn't being legitimately represented on the company's website.

 

"My worry was that if I didn't see this, someone would have gone through the same process I did and then blame Moo's for their experience."

Munoz isn't the only chef expressing concerns over online ordering services offering delivery from restaurants without their permission. In January, Pim Techamuanvivit received a call from a customer inquiring about an order made from her San Francisco restaurant Kin Khao through the Grubhub-owned platform Seamless, despite the restaurant explicitly not offering delivery.

"They can't totally fake a restaurant that doesn't do delivery and go pick up food from, I don't know, some rat-infested warehouse somewhere and deliver to my guests," Techamuanvivit told the San Francisco Chronicle.

According to Grubhub, a majority of orders the company processes in the 2,700 cities where it operates are from restaurants with which it has an explicit partnership. But restaurants deemed to be in high demand are occasionally added without such a partnership; in those situations the company tasks the driver with ordering food ahead of time or at the restaurant before delivery.

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