Neir’s Tavern, Avenue Diner owners call for transparency from Uber Eats, other delivery apps offering waived fees for local restaurants

delivery apps
Screenshot of Change.org petition

Neir’s Tavern owner Loycent Gordon created a petition to get Uber Eats to clarify whether they were actually waiving delivery fees or just deferring the fees, after fellow restaurateurs realized they were still getting charged a 30 percent commission.

“Last week, there was a big media push from their company saying that they waived fees for restaurants being affected by what’s going on, and a lot of my friends that owned businesses and use Uber Eats were very happy because of this crazy time,” Gordon told QNS. “But the reality is that there seems to be a separation with what’s being said and what’s being done.”

Gordon doesn’t use the delivery platform for Neir’s Tavern, Woodhaven’s historic 190-year-old bar and grill that almost closed its doors due to rising rent in January before Mayor Bill de Blasio and other leaders in Queens stepped in to help.

He created the petition so that he could help fellow local restaurant owners who are afraid to speak up. 

Every restaurant is looking for ways to stay in business now more than ever, as they have to follow strict take-out and delivery guidelines as a result of the coronavirus health emergency in New York City.

Paul Vasiliadis, owner of Avenue Diner in Woodhaven, said he was still charged 30 percent commission in his weekly report from Uber Eats, even though he thought that fee would be waived after seeing the news that Uber Eats and other delivery apps like Grubhub announced changes to assist struggling restaurants during this time.

“People using the mobile and online apps have to understand that the expenses fall on the restaurant, the fees imposed to us are greater than fees for customers,” Vasiliadis said. “For us to be able to sustain ourselves, we need the extra money.”

According to a report by Eater, Grubhub’s announcement that it would suspend collection of $100 million in commissions was actually a deferment that restaurants would later have to pay back.

“They’re trying to drum up things because whoever is ordering is doing it online,” Vasiliadis said. “They’re not cutting us any sort of breaks whatsoever.”

But, an Uber Eats spokesperson told QNS that they never committed to waiving or deferring commission, which varies depending on the restaurant, like Grubhub previously did.

They are only waiving delivery fees for customers, not restaurants.

“The idea is that getting rid of the delivery fee for customers should increase the restaurants’ business,” the Uber Eats spokesperson said. “Grubhub is asking for deferred payments, there’s no hidden fine print on our changes.” 

Their initial announcement did indeed receive a lot of media coverage, all of which were based on an Uber Eats blog post written by Head of Uber Eats in the U.S. and Canada Janelle Sallenave.

“We know the success of every restaurant depends on customer demand. That’s why we’re working urgently to drive orders towards independent restaurants on [Uber] Eats, to help make up for the significant slowdown of in-restaurant dining,” Sallenave wrote. “As more customers are choosing to stay indoors, we’ve waived the Delivery Fee for the more than 100,000 independent restaurants across US and Canada on Uber Eats.”

But Gordon just wants clear and specific messages from third-party delivery apps.

“The whole point is not to attack them, it’s just for them to be transparent and tell the truth to a local restaurant owner who felt relieved but then realized they’re still being charged,” Gordon said. “We’re not battling their fee, that’s another argument. We need facts, we don’t need more bureaucracy.”

Vasiliadis said that they don’t have to eliminate the fee, just waive it for the time being, if that’s what they’re saying they’re doing to help restaurants who are seeing up to 75 percent less business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This doesn’t just affect me, it affects every single eatery in the city,” he said. “It’s everybody else that’s trying to stay afloat and keep their workforce employed. The struggle is very real, and people should be doing their part to help. This is a company that’s trading in the stock exchange, for them this is just a little hiccup. How is alleviating the delivery cost for customers, but not for restaurants, supposed to help?”

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