Last Friday the wife (Cruella) and I wanted to go out to dinner. We have a favorite Chinese restaurant we frequent and the desire for their Barbeque Pork Chow Fun combined with our desire to get out of the house neatly.
We have been to this restaurant numerous times, in point of fact we discovered it during the pandemic, both to dine in and to get take out (or take away if you are reading this in the UK). Never a hassle, good food, and most importantly a chance to get out of the house and eat at a different table and gaze at something other than, well, each other.
As has become custom during the pandemic I went to their website to make sure of their operating hours and if they were continuing to offer dine in service. Nothing had changed, so off we went.
Much to our surprise their doorway was blocked and a small sign taped to the glass window announced that since the previous Tuesday they had gone to “Take Out and Door Dash Only”.
While we probably should have gone in search of other eating arraignments, our appetites were craving that Chow Fun, so we scrapped our plans to dine in and ordered to go. While waiting for our order to be completed I counted four people coming to pick up orders they had placed online or via the phone and a stunning seven Door Dashers. That’s eleven total orders in the span of ten minutes.
The other thing I noticed is that the prices had gone up. The chow fun, an order of garlic shrimp, and an order of potstickers came to $36, about 30% higher than we would have been charged prior to the pandemic. Now there is inflation to factor in, plus trying to make back some of what was lost when the restaurant was closed early in the pandemic, but 30% higher? That’s when it hit me. Actually it was the woman from Door Dash who hit me because she was staring down at her phone and not looking where she was going.
I’m being asked to subsidize all of their Door Dash sales. And so are my fellow diners.
You can dash on to more by clicking the link
Door Dash, the app based service that will go and fetch take-out food for you, charges a restaurant anywhere from 13% to 40% of the total bill. That’s on top of getting the consumer to pay a delivery fee. Hmm, 13% to 40% puts my 30% price rise right smack in the middle. So I did a little digging and yeah, when a restaurant signs on with Door Dash they make the Hobbesian choice of either eating the Door Dash charges or upping the cost to everyone. Why everyone? Because in the contract it says a restaurant can not charge the Door Dash customer more or give a discount to anyone NOT using Door Dash. In other words, you’re a long time customer who regularly dined at this restaurant and most of the time the owner throws a free order of spring rolls or a glass of wine or gives you a “good customer” lower price. If Door Dash catches them doing that they pull the restaurant out of their order system. There is currently an antitrust suit challenging that requirement.
If you shrug and say so sign up with one of the other take out delivery systems remember that they ALL have this same provision. Check out that legal brief linked above, you’ll see the named defendant is GrubHub with Door Dash, Uber Eats, and Postmates added in, but that’s because it was filed before the pandemic heated up the delivery market. At that time GrubHub was king, but the pandemic has been a boon to Door Dash, propelling them to that 60% market share. In other words, delete them and you may be deleting a significant number of potential customers.
Back in my old Greenwich Village New York neighborhood, guys who forced a business to cut them in like that usually had names like Vinnie the Nose and you paid because you knew what was good for youse…er…I mean, you. If the DA made noise about how they had to crack down on organized crime because of what it was costing the local citizenry this is exactly the kind of thing they would point to.
“Mrs. Bernstein, you’re paying more for dry cleaning because Vinnie the Nose is making the dry cleaner pay protection money. Get rid of him, get rid of the protection money paid, and the cost of your dry cleaning goes down”
Door Dash and it’s ilk effectively say “If youse knows what good for ya, just raise all your prices and no one is the wiser”.
I’m not about to say restaurant pricing is the cause of inflation in America today, but all these people yelling about Biden’s policies causing inflation need to put down that burger they had Uber Eats deliver to them and look at how the economy has changed since March of 2020. Inflation is being caused by major corporations wanting to make back money they lost during the pandemic. People were working from home thus not driving to work hence not buying as much gas. Gas prices spike. Workers didn’t want to potentially expose themselves to COVID thus didn’t go into work hence fewer workers meant having to pay higher wages to entice them to work. Prices of the goods and services the company provided go up to cover.
Big Business will always find a way for their profits to not be cut into. They get the tax code pretzeled into a shape that allows many of them to pay little if any federal taxes. They spend millions insuring that politicians get elected who will blindly accept the adage that “what’s good for business is good for America”, aka Repugnicants. And whenever outside events cause a disruption in the normal way of doing business, like a hurricane or an earthquake or a global pandemic, they make the consumer, more often than not the person least able to afford spending more, pay more.
What’s often said in crime novels is in fact the reality. When looking for the culprit, the easiest answer is often the right one.
I want the restaurant industry to survive. After all, where would Brenda and Eddie meet if their Italian place disappeared?