Just Don't Door Dash, Ottawa
Few things fire me up as much as small business owners being exploited and ripped off. These folks work harder and have more on the line emotionally and financially then most. They make up the unique tapestry that form our communities, and put up with a LOT.
That being said, I’d like to paint a little picture for you. Let’s pretend you made a gorgeous dinner. Your neighbour calls and asks if you would mind bringing it to her potluck. Upon arrival with the dinner you lovingly made and purchased ingredients for, your neighbour gets busy with the guests. She stores it in the kitchen and forgets about it. Two hours later, your dish is brought out and served- soggy and cold. It is then you notice your neighbour going around collecting $2 from each person, the cost of “your casserole”. Swimming in the angry glares of the party guests, you flee. You're humiliated everyone thinks you make crappy food, and angry your neighbour is now turning a profit off your hard work.
This is, in a nutshell, what Door Dash is to small food businesses everywhere.
DoorDash Inc. is an on-demand restaurant delivery service founded in 2013 by Stanford students Andy Fang, Stanley Tang, Tony Xu and Evan Moore. A Combinator-backed company, DoorDash is one of several technology companies that uses logistics services to offer food delivery from restaurants on-demand. From what I’ve been able to dig up through my research and chatting with some distraught and frustrated Ottawa business owners, Door Dash enters the community by researching the most populated and highest rated pages on social media and Google. They then proceed to reach out to you to form a “partnership”. Should you refuse, you are listed anyways.
Many restaurateurs have no idea they are even listed until the negative reviews start pouring in over late deliveries, rude delivery people, and sub par food.
The battle to get your listing removed is difficult- if not impossible. A client of mine (who has asked to remain anonymous) called a number I sourced for her after some digging- an rep named “Kenny” who has 5 different phone numbers and 3 emails- that we know of- had this experience:
“I said I found out my biz is listed without my knowledge and that's not ok. We don't do takeout. He said yeah it would just be like a regular customer who calls in and places an order. I repeated WE DON'T DO THAT. And told him he needs to tell other businesses because that's not ok and he kept trying to defend himself. Then he hung up on me.”
“He then hung up on me a second time when I asked questions and why they don't ask for permission or set up accounts with businesses
He gave me a lot of "we're an international company and we've been around for 6 years and it's all legal you can look it up"
I was intrigued if this legal argument was accurate so I reached out to my friend Ashley, a brand lawyer with Aventum IP Law LLP in Ottawa. Here’s what she had to say:
“the law can be leveraged against the display of a restaurant’s name, logos, and menu on a third party food delivery website without the owner’s permission, including where there are concerns about the quality of the product delivered. The impact on a brand of an unauthorized food delivery service can be significant and damaging. If you object to your restaurant appearing on a third party food delivery website, try reaching out directly to the company first to see if you can come to a resolution, and don’t hesitate to inform your customers that you haven’t authorized the use of the delivery service. If you aren’t getting the results you want with the company directly, seek the help of a brand lawyer experienced in copyright and trademark enforcement.”
I decided it was time to confront Kenny, and get some answers. I sent the following email:
I'm reaching out today as a small business consultant and advocate, acting on the concerns of many of her clients and others in the Ottawa community.
I'm curious as to how your business model justifies itself as an ethical practice when you list restaurateurs and food artisans without their knowledge or permission, even after they have openly declined your offer.
The food businesses you're exploiting by piggybacking on their brands and hard work to make a profit are further damaged by you- an outside third party deciding which foods are deliverable.
Most small businesses design their take out menus -in house and for apps- for the items that travel well and best represent the company and the brand.
By Door Dash just coming in and listing whatever they feel, you're doing a real disservice to the consistency and reputation of our hard working small business owners- while making a profit on something that frankly, is not yours.
I'm currently writing a blog for my small business followers, and would appreciate a reply on how a business could remove themselves immediately from your listings, should you allow it.
Kindly note that any reply to this email will be quoted or shown in my blog post and online."
After some back and forth, and refusing to answer my questions in print, I asked point blank how to get yourself unlisted. This was the reply:
"If they would still like the extra take out business but want to fix any issues they may be having and start a full partnership have them call me at XXX-XXX-XXXX” (an arizona phone number)
Talk about tone deaf.
There’s a lot of information here, so let me just break it down-Door Dash isn’t a good thing. For anyone- consumer or proprietor. Here are some considerations:
I’ve been on industry groups all week watching this unfold. Most of the menus are quickly ripped off from outdated sources, meaning that what you’re ordering may not be exactly what you are getting. In one example, a businesses’ soup that had been off the menu for over a year was still being offered as a current listing on Door Dash. What are they bringing you in place of that you actually ordered?
Trust your favourite restaurants proprietors to know what’s best for their product- because you love their product! Most businesses choose takeout options and set their menu (if they choose to offer takeout at all) because they know how well their food will keep, travel, and hold up for deliveries. Warm baked goods, fresh made sandwiches, these are all things that can be mishandled and fall flat when thrown into the hands and delivery vehicles of an unauthorized third party.
Who is delivering this stuff anyways? If this company is so bold to storm into a community and to list restaurants without their permission, then who are they hiring as drivers and how are they compensated? I’ve always said the person handing off your product is a direct reflection of your business. With Door Dash you don't even know who that person is.
That markup is hellish. I caught on a forum that one restaurants dish, priced regularly at $11, was being sold on Door Dash at a whopping $25.95. Where exactly is that markup headed? At least when folks strike up a deal with Just Eat or Skip the Dishes, they have the control to set their prices including the delivery fees, which is ethical, sensible and better for the consumer.
I may do a part 2 to this post as I acquire more information from “Kenny” (not holding my breath on that one) and others in the community. In the meantime- if you’re a restaurant being listed without permission you can reach out to my friend branding lawyer Ashley who generously contributed to this post at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (613) 232-5300 x 217.
You can also reach out to my friend and fellow Restaurant Consultant, Sharif, email@example.com as he is making a list of Ottawa restaurants being exploited by Door Dash for follow up.