You’ve probably heard of GrubHub. It is an online and mobile food ordering delivery marketplace that picks up food from restaurants and brings it to people’s homes. People use it for the convenience of not having to go get the food themselves. Unfortunately, it appears that GrubHub is doing things that harm small restaurants.
An article on The New Food Economy website was written by H. Claire Brown. In this article, Brown reports that GrubHub has been buying up thousands of restaurant web address, many of small “Mom and Pop shops”, so that those small businesses can’t have them.
The New Food Economy reported that it has found that GrubHub owns more than 23,000 web domains. Its subsidiary, Seamless, owns thousands. They published a full list (Google doc) of the domains. The report says most of them appear to correlate with the names of real restaurants.
Additionally, it appears GrubHub has set up several generic, templated pages that look like real restaurant websites but in fact link only to GrubHub. These pages also display phone numbers that GrubHub controls. The calls are forwarded to the restaurant, but the platform records each one and charges the restaurant a commission fee for every order, according to testimony from GrubHub executives at New York City Hall on Thursday. This happens on the GrubHub platform itself, too. The phone numbers you see displayed in the app typically aren’t a restaurant’s actual phone number, they’re the numbers that GrubHub uses to make sure it’s getting its commission.
The really icky thing about all this is that customers don’t know that the phone number they called is not the restaurant’s real phone number. They don’t know the restaurant website isn’t run or owned by the real restaurant. Customers think they are helping their favorite, local “Mom and Pop” restaurant – but they’re mostly helping GrubHub make money.