TNT Diner

Watch out for new food-delivery app. Restaurant owners say it’s got problems.

DoorDash driver Jake Vertin, right, drops off a Curry Up Now order to Chong Zhang, August 21, 2013, in Palo Alto, California.
DoorDash driver Jake Vertin, right, drops off a Curry Up Now order to Chong Zhang, August 21, 2013, in Palo Alto, California. File photo - MCT

Tacoma restaurant owners have a warning for diners about the newly launched DoorDash Food Delivery app: There are problems with it.

Five local restaurant owners say they didn’t know they were going to be listed on the app when DoorDash launched in Tacoma Oct. 25. That’s led to worries that some customers will order food through the app that is no longer available, among other problems. Five restaurant owners who spoke to The News Tribune said they’re going to opt out.

DoorDash is a San Francisco-based company that launched in 2013. It’s operated in Seattle for a year.

Diners sign up for DoorDash service, order food through the DoorDash website or through an Android or Apple app. Diners enter payment information, then pay delivery and service fees, plus an optional tip, to have the food delivered by a third-party driver.

The roll out has not been smooth in the Tacoma market, and some restaurant owners report troubles.

Some also said they are worried that problems will be blamed on them and not the app.

Gwendolyn Stence, owner of Rock The Dock Pub & Grill, is one.

“It implies a relationship, to be listed,” Stence said. “Some things on our menu don’t travel well. I would not list them on the app if I had control.”

She added, “If the customer gets the food and they’re unhappy with something, they’re not going to give DoorDash a bad review, they’re going to slam the restaurant. It seems like a great concept, but doing it without any permission whatsoever, it’s crazy.”

Eitan Bencuya of DoorDash explained that DoorDash tries to include as many restaurants as possible to have the best selection of food.

Several restaurants, including Katie Downs, The Hob Nob, Ivar’s, Red Robin and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse have partner agreements with DoorDash, but there are also non-partners listed.

Partners have control over what can be ordered and the hours the app operates. Partner restaurants “pay DoorDash a percentage commission for each order. That percentage varies based on a variety of factors,” Bencuya wrote in an email.

If restaurant owners don’t want to participate, they can be removed from the app, he said.

Four of the restaurant owners who spoke to The News Tribune said they had contact prior to the launch with representatives from DoorDash, but none of the owners signed up with a partner agreement nor approved menus listed on the app.

Kris Blondin, owner of Stink Cheese and Meat, was worried when she saw the DoorDash website list an outdated menu for her business.

Blondin intends to opt out.

Steve Naccarato, co-owner of Shake Shake Shake in the Stadium neighborhood, said he takes issue with how his restaurant was included. The first he learned of it was when someone called and reported a problem ordering through the app (when a diner orders online, a driver phones in the order if the restaurant is not a partner).

Naccarato asked to be removed, a request DoorDash honored.

“When you show up on an app out of the blue, it feels like a violation of trust, because it was never, ever mentioned that we will be putting you on a trial period for free, to see what interest there is to have you on the app. If all that was explained, if the system was set up and we were ready, that might have been OK,” Naccarato said.

Naccarato has been listed on UberEats since its launch earlier this year. He controls how he interacts with that app and the delivery. He can modify which items are available and can shut off UberEats during busy times. Because he’s not a partner business with DoorDash, he doesn’t have that kind of control.

“With DoorDash, you don’t have those options, and you have people calling, furthering the problem of stressing the staff trying to handle an already overloaded system,” he said. “Why should they be able to impose that on us without our explicit knowledge and agreement? It just all feels wrong to me.”

Peter Levy of the restaurant company Chow Foods, which owns restaurants in Seattle and Cooks Tavern and Brewers Row in Tacoma, said he’s angry his Tacoma restaurants have been listed on the app. He’s asked to be removed.

“We will not ever let any third party do deliveries from our restaurants,” said Levy, who listed concerns about how the food is handled in transport. “I’m bloody sick of these technology companies attempting to monetize restaurants.”

Charlie McManus of Primo Grill said he learned about his restaurant’s participation when someone from DoorDash called in an order for take-out and then never picked it up. He said the food went to waste.

At least one restaurant owner contacted by The News Tribune has been happy with the service so far.

Jen DiLoreto, who runs the sandwich shop DiLoreto’s with husband Chris, said they didn’t sign up, but she’s already taken orders for the delivery service. She said she likes that she’s not being charged a fee by the delivery service.

“We didn’t sign up but we’ve used them. It’s better for us than UberEats because we are not charged 30 percent per order. They also just call in the order like a regular customer. It’s great.”

However, she said if DoorDash were to start charging her restaurant a fee, as it says it does for partner restaurants, she’ll opt out unless the fee is 5 percent or less of the bill’s total.