Off The Menu: Grubhub, DoorDash fight cap on delivery fees

The long-running dispute between independent restaurants and third-party delivery services took a new turn in mid-July when Grubhub and DoorDash filed suit in federal court to overturn San Francisco’s cap on delivery fees.

The relationship between restaurants and smartphone-based delivery companies has never been an easy one; the economics of third-party restaurant delivery has been problematic from the start.

Companies like Grubhub and Uber Eats primarily make their money from the spread between what they collect from delivery customers and the amount those services pass back to the restaurant that supplied the food. This discount rate, typically anywhere between 15% and 30%, is the source of conflict, since it means third-party deliveries aren’t even close to profitable for the restaurants that fill them.

Not wanting to put themselves at a competitive disadvantage, third party services at first insisted on charging delivery customers the same prices that a restaurant’s dine-in or take-out customers paid, thereby hiding the real cost of delivery. With the typical independent eatery generating a profit margin of around 5%, under such a setup delivery orders end up being subsidized by the restaurant — and its dine-in customers.

This situation was tolerable when delivery was a small percentage of a restaurant’s overall business, but as third-party delivery sales spiked during pandemic dining room shutdowns, the hefty commissions Grubhub and its competitors were charging back to participating eateries began to do real dollars-and-cents damage.

Some cities responded by temporarily capping the discount rate third party services could charge. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors (city council) went a step further and passed a permanent 15% cap.

Their business model threatened, the third party services have gone to court in order to get that cap overturned.

In areas where caps have been in place, third party services have typically increased their menu prices for delivery orders, a practice the services are reluctant to continue, since those higher-to-consumer prices more accurately reflect the real costs of third-party restaurant delivery.

Chick-fil-A in Chicopee is sponsoring a Family Picnic Take Out event on Saturday, July 31, 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The “pick-up, take-out” package includes a picnic tote, a six-pack of cookies, an activity, and surprise goodies. Participants pick up their tote on Chick-fil-A’s outdoor patio; a lunch order to “fill” the tote can be placed at that time.

Cost to participate is $10; any optional lunch order is extra. To purchase a ticket for the event, go to Eventbrite.com/e/chick-fil-a-family-picnic-take-out-tickets.

Chic-fil-A in Chicopee answers at (413) 592-4500.

Chef Enrico Giovanello is hosting a multi-course patio dinner at the Table 3 Restaurant Group’s function center, The Collection at Wight Farm in Sturbridge. The Aug. 12 evening will feature an “International BBQ” menu and will be served on The Collection’s outdoor dining terrace.

Cost to attend is $55 per person, a price that does not include tax or gratuity. Reservations may be made by calling (774) 241-8450.

In the event of rain, the dinner will be held indoors. A second “patio dinner” is planned for Sept. 29.

The Franklin County Community Development Corporation in Greenfield is once again sponsoring Food Safety Classes. Specifically designed for culinary entrepreneurs who wish to develop and market a new food product, the course will cover product development, food processing safety protocols, labeling practices, and regulatory requirements.

Presented remotely using Zoom, the two-day course will run on Aug. 10 and 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the registration deadline is Aug. 3. The program is free for participants.

For more information or a registration link, e-mail [email protected]

The Franklin County Community Development Corporation answers at (413) 774-7204.

Busy with their now-open bar, dining room, and outdoor patio, the staff at Galaxy Restaurant in Easthampton has announced that they will not doing weekend takeout for the time being.

Chef-owner Casey Douglass creates a menu of appetizers, small plates, and entrees in a “New American” style. His throwback fried chicken dinner is a menu staple, as is his pistachio-crusted salmon. Among the current small plate offerings are the likes of burrata with peach caprese and Mexican street corn.

Galaxy dishes up Douglass’ handiwork in recycled bank space that features an “out-of-this-world” ambiance.

The restaurant, which currently serves dinner four evenings a week and takes reservations, answers at (413) 203-2011.

On Friday, Aug. 6, the Holyoke Community College Business & Workforce Development program, in conjunction with the MGM-HCC Culinary Arts Institute in Holyoke, will be presenting a virtual baking class.

Designed to be family participation activities, each baking class focuses on the preparation of an impressive (yet amateur-friendly) dessert specialty. The Aug. 6 session, will begin at 4 p.m., will explore a simple yet versatile family of pastry items – cream puffs and eclairs.

The classes are taught virtually by Chef Maureen Benton, the head pastry chef at Wilbraham-Monson Academy in Wilbraham. At-home participants receive recipes, shopping lists, and instruction sheets that enable them to cook along with Chef Benton during the 90-minute Zoom session.

Tickets for the event are $49 and can be purchased online at http://hcc.3dcartstores.com/Cream-PuffEclairs_p_17822.html. More information on the virtual baking series can be had by calling Valentyna Semyrog at (413) 552-2123.

Casual dining chain Ruby Tuesday has added barbecue to its menu.

Originally developed as a virtual brand available only as takeout or for delivery, the Libby’s BBQ menu at Ruby Tuesday has also been made available for in-store dining. Barbecue selections include pulled pork, smoked brisket, and smoked sausage as well as an assortment of traditional picnic sides. The smoked meats are available as sandwiches or a part of various combination plates.

The Libby’s BBQ menu will be available at Ruby Tuesday through September.

The Knoxville, TN-based company recently closed its restaurant in Holyoke Mall; Ruby Tuesday restaurants continue to operate in several central Connecticut locations.

Vanished Valley Brewing Company of Ludlow is planning their Second Annual Vanished Valley Clam Bake.

Schedule for Aug. 5, the “feed” is $40 per person including tax and tip. Those attending get a lobster, clams, shrimp, mussels, potato, sausage, and fresh corn.

Vanished Valley answers at (413) 610-1572.

Given July’s soggy weather, the late June debut of an expansive patio awning at Spoleto Restaurant in Northampton was a most timely occasion. The festive red-and-yellow structure protects the establishment’s outdoor dining space from summer sun and showers alike.

This summer Spoleto is featuring a selection of brick oven pizzas as well as pasta favorites such as crazy Alfredo, seafood fra diavolo, and rigatoni Bolognese.

Raw bar selection are available, and the kitchen even prepares two upscale taco creations, one made with seared tuna and a second that features filet mignon.

The restaurant, which is open seven days a week starting at 4 p.m., answers at (413) 586-6313.

Taco Bell is once again releasing its Nacho Fries as a limited-time-only menu selection.

The specially-seasoned, served-with-cheese-sauce fried potatoes have proven to be a marketing workhorse for the Mexican fast food chain. This summer’s reprise of Nacho Fries represents the seventh time they’ve been reintroduced to build brand “buzz.”

The fries will be available for an unspecified limited time as a side order and as part of combination box deal.

On Aug. 1, Historic Deerfield, Inc. and Champney’s Restaurant at the Deerfield Inn in Deerfield will once again sponsor a Sunday Summer Stroll.

A guided late-afternoon walk through Historic Deerfield will explore the environment and scenery of the village; the tour will be followed by the opportunity to enjoy dinner at Champney’s Restaurant with a 20% discount on entrees. Dinner is not required to participate in the tour.

The walking tour, which begins at 4 p.m., is $10, and reservations can be made online at historic-deerfield.org. Dinner reservations at Champney’s Restaurant can be made by calling (413) 774-5587, ext. 387.

Featuring the comfort-food cookery of El Salvador, Cocina Lupita Food Truck now operates daily in Greenfield. Serving from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. from its location behind the former Wilson’s Department Store, Cocina Lupita offers pupusa (soft corn tortillas), tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and combination plates.

Pastelitos (fried turnovers) are a specialty, and a selection of side dish items is also available.

Cocina Lupita maintains a social media presence at facebook.com/cocinalupitagreenfield. Their telephone number is (413) 768-1034.

Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached on-line at [email protected].

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