Multiple Yellowknife restaurants say they are angered after learning they have been listed on the food delivery app DoorDash without prior knowledge or consent.
DoorDash, an app that allows users to find and order food from restaurants in their vicinity, recently launched in the NWT capital. Five establishments were listed on the app’s Yellowknife page as of Thursday lunchtime.
Of the five, four have so far confirmed to Cabin Radio they did not give DoorDash consent to list their business: the Monkey Tree Pub, Taste of Saigon, Main Street Pizza and Deli, and Bullocks Bistro. The fifth is McDonald’s.
By 8pm on Thursday – several hours after this report was first published – only McDonald’s remained listed. DoorDash appeared to have removed the others from its app.
Jennifer Vornbrock, co-owner of the Monkey Tree Pub, earlier said DoorDash had been “harassing [the pub] for about a month,” calling to ask if the Monkey Tree wanted to be included on the app.
Vornbrock said DoorDash was explicitly told no each time.
Eventually, Vornbrock said she and her husband – co-owner Steve Dinham – told the company to send them an email with paperwork and other information to review, and they would consider joining.
She said the email never came.
Not long after, they discovered the Monkey Tree Pub was already listed on the app.
Vornbrock said she is “pretty pissed that they put us on there, actually.”
“We’re not even set up to do this yet,” she continued. “We have been given no means to do it, whether it be an app or an iPad – I don’t even know how the orders come through. This is why we were supposed to be getting information.”
‘People could get irate’
Jo-Ann Martin, co-owner of Bullocks Bistro in Old Town, had a similar experience.
After telling DoorDash over the phone about a month ago that she wasn’t interested in being included, Martin discovered on Thursday her restaurant had been listed regardless.
Martin said this hasn’t yet been an issue but could potentially become one. She plans to ask DoorDash why Bullocks is on the app and will ask to be removed.
“It could be complicated, because people could get irate about it and give us a bad reputation or bad reviews, I guess, because we’re not available or whatever,” she said.
Taste of Saigon, in downtown Yellowknife also confirmed its owners were unaware they had been included on the app. Main Street Pizza and Deli said the same.
Cabin Radio approached DoorDash for comment. The company had not responded by the time of publication.
Same story in the Atlantic
Restaurants elsewhere in Canada have described similar experiences. The CBC in Nova Scotia reported a year ago that restaurants had been caught unawares by DoorDash.
The Black Sheep restaurant, in Halifax, was one of those businesses. Co-owner David Woodley said that unknown to him, the restaurant had been listed on the app for quite some time, with outdated menus and incorrect prices. He had earlier refused DoorDash permission to list the Black Sheep.
Drivers would come into the restaurant to pick up orders without identifying themselves as DoorDash employees, Woodley said.
“We had a driver show up to pick up a takeout order, and somebody brought it to my attention – ‘Hey, I didn’t realize we were partnering with DoorDash’ – and I said, ‘We’re not,’” Woodley remembered of the day he found out.
“We logged on to the website and they, without our permission, had listed us as a partner, essentially.”
DoorDash eventually removed the Black Sheep from the app after Woodley contacted the company and demanded they do so. Removal took several days – “longer than I would have liked,” Woodley said.
“It was just a big misrepresentation of our brand,” he said. “They were quoting people for like an hour wait time, and it just wasn’t in line with what we did as a sit-down restaurant.”
One of the biggest takeaways from his experience, Woodley said, was the importance of ordering from the restaurants themselves rather than through apps: “If you want to actually support the local business, you have to order directly from them.”
Vornbrock seconded this, citing the 20 to 30-percent commission such food apps can collect on sales.
“I think that they ruin a lot of smaller restaurant businesses,” she said.
“Maybe it works well for franchises that ultimately can lower their cost of food and all of that, and maybe they can afford the percentage, but people like us – I’m sure the other restauranteurs in town feel the same – can’t afford those prices to have that service.
“I would prefer to support somebody local that understands the cost involved in operating in the North rather than talking to some guy in Calgary or Edmonton that has no idea – has never even been here.”
A new, local delivery service?
Yellowknife does have local delivery services.
Some restaurants deliver themselves. Another delivery service, operated by resident Shivam Dhamija, is due to go live as soon as next week.
Dhamija’s service, currently named RSS Delivery Services, will take the form of an app named YK Eats. So far, it has partnered with four local restaurants to deliver meals.
He hopes to have 10 to 15 drivers, paid according to the number of deliveries they make.
Dhamija says his service will take a much lower cut from restaurants than bigger companies.
“These companies charge a lot. It is not possible to run a profitable restaurant at that price,” he said.
“I’m just being very transparent to the restaurants in terms of fees.”
He hopes his service can bridge the delivery gap in Yellowknife without financially burdening restaurants.
“It would be really helpful if people try to help and support local as compared to some company coming from thousands of kilometres away,” he said.
“I just wanted to help the restaurants strengthen themselves and then power something which is local, where the money stays in the town.”