It seems like dubious delivery app practices are still at play. A week after Seamless made headlines for mixing up a Michelin-starred San Francisco restaurant with a ghost kitchen, high-end Seattle restaurant Lark has run into problems with the same app. Kelly Ronan, co-owner of Lark, tells Eater Seattle that a couple of customers have recently ordered food through Seamless after seeing the Capitol Hill spot listed on the app. The only problem is, Lark — which serves seasonal, farm-to-table fare from acclaimed chef John Sundstrom — doesn’t do takeout or delivery.
When Ronan contacted Seamless’s parent company, Grubhub, to find out why Lark was listed on the app, she says a rep did not admit to a mistake, telling her that, “We try to offer the best restaurants in each city for our customers.” To remove Lark from Seamless, Ronan says she was instructed to fill out a form, and told it could take three to five day. There was also a link to Grubhub posted on the restaurant’s Google business page, which disturbed Ronan most of all. “How did they get access to our Google information?” she asks.
Grubhub says the restaurant was removed from the app January 29, the same day Ronan lodged her complaint. As of press time, Grubhub’s badge still appeared on Lark’s Google page, though the link no longer leads to an order form or menu.
In a statement to Eater Seattle, Grubhub continues, “When we removed Lark from our platform, we also completed all steps within our control to remove related references from Lark’s search results. To be clear, we do not have any access to or direct control over the contents of a business’ page on search engines like Google, and there may be a lag between the time that we make the request and the time that the search engine (e.g., Google) completely removes the links.”
This story is getting all too common, though. A host of food delivery apps — including Grubhub’s competitors DoorDash and Postmates — have been offering food from restaurants without their explicit permission for awhile, and seem to be making no apologies for it. Grubhub is just the latest to jump into the mix with this strategy.
“Historically, we’d only chosen to list partnered restaurants, and we still firmly believe this is the right way to build the marketplace and the only way to drive long term value for diners, restaurants and drivers,” says Grubhub. “But it also takes longer to build the network this way, and other food delivery companies have chosen to list non-partnered restaurants on their marketplaces for years to widen their supply of restaurants.” Grubhub’s practice to include “non-partnered” restaurants has been going on since the fall.
In the case of Lark, Ronan simply wants some quality control and accountability from a service that claims to help restaurants get more business. She says that the menu from which customers ordered was out of season and the prices were wrong. The situation is complicated, because Lark’s restaurant group includes more casual spots, such as the pizzeria Southpaw, which voluntarily signed up to be on Seamless — and will continue to use the service. But Ronan feels that Lark’s situation raised a lot of red flags, especially since apps like Grubhub take a large percentage of sales: up to 20 percent, for partnered restaurants (Grubhub does not, however, take a commission from non-partnered ones). “Lark isn’t set up for this,” Ronan says. “And it hurts our reputation if a customer has a bad experience for something we never signed up for.”
Despite all the issues, it looks like Grubhub is still moving forward with the policy in the Seattle area, at least. The company’s statement says, “If a restaurant prefers not to be on our marketplace or needs to change any information like menu items or hours, they should reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll work as quickly as possible to make necessary updates or remove them.”