Operators Beware: Choose Your Third-Party Delivery Service Partner Wisely

Delivery has always been a big part of business for a subset of the restaurant industry, but it’s quickly penetrated the rest of our industry over the past few years and it’s just going to keep growing. In fact, online delivery revenues are expected to be more than $24 billion by 2023.

That’s a lot of cash that operators are going to want a cut of.

That’s why we’ve been talking so much about restaurant delivery this summer. We looked at everything from the best third-party delivery services for restaurants to consider, some common pitfalls of delivery, and whether you should conduct delivery in-house or use a third-party service.

And while we still increasingly believe that delivery is going to be a huge part of most restaurants’ future, some of our recent experiences as consumers using third-party apps should be a warning sign for operators to choose their partners wisely. 

A Cold, Late Delivery Order

Who should contact a restaurant delivery customer on service delays — Grubhub or your restaurant?

In the past week, my wife and I have had three terrible delivery experiences – one by GrubHub and two by Postmates.

It started off with a GrubHub order showing up extremely late. The original ETA was 50-60 minutes delivery time, based on the time of day and the fact that we were ordering some hot sandwiches. It’s a relatively standard delivery time and, while we were pretty hungry already, it was a reasonable window.

Unfortunately, the delivery time came and went. We waited to call because maybe the driver was just a little bit behind and also because we’re Millennials and that’s what we do, apparently. A half hour late goes by before my wife hangrily picks up the phone to call the restaurant to figure out. The restaurant said bad weather had delayed the driver from picking up the order, but he was on his way. Five minutes later, he arrived with cold chicken wings and fries.

Now, to be fair, that evening was stormy, so it’s entirely possible that the delivery was delayed by traffic. But why was there no update via phone call or push notification that the order was delayed due to circumstances outside of their control? It’s one thing to be at the hands of the gods, it’s another to not update your clients about a change in expected service.

Also, why was the order cold? Shouldn’t it had been kept warm or left in a temperature-controlled area? Cold and soggy chicken and fries was not a good look for the restaurant – even if the driver was late. 

Cancelation After Cancelation

Restaurant delivery with Postmates was a subpar guest experience.

The experience was annoying enough that we decided to dump GrubHub for Postmates, based on a recommendation from a friend. Alas, this was an extremely poor experiment. 

Our first order was to a small, local pizza joint. Nothing was special about the order. Much like with GrubHub, the order estimated time of delivery came and went. Then I get a text message from Postmates saying they had to cancel my order because they didn’t have any available drivers in the area.


Now note that I live in Boston, so it’s not like I’m out in a rural part of the country where drivers would expectedly be much scarcer. If Postmates can’t handle business in Boston, where can they handle business?

Postmates refunded the cash and gave a measly $5 coupon off my next order. Desperately wanting to leave GrubHub’s grasp, decided to give Postmates another try. We put an order in the next day, this time with Otto Pizza. Similar deal happened with the previous order. 

Eventually we get a call from someone close to the estimated delivery time saying that the order went through fine with Postmates but isn’t showing up in Otto’s system. The service rep said I had to cancel the order to clear it and try again.

I canceled the order and got my refund, but we definitely didn’t put in another order.

We’ve only used the app twice and both times our orders were canceled. Safe to say we won’t be using Postmates again.

It’s Your Restaurants Reputation on the Line

Bad restaurant delivery experiences hurt your restaurant’s reputation.

Regardless if these issues were the problem of the delivery service or the restaurants, it’s as much as your reputation on the line as it is the delivery service. If you partner with a company and they fail to delivery their end of the bargain, it reflects poorly on you. Why order delivery from your restaurant if I’m not going to be able to get my meal?

So do your research. Make sure the third-party delivery service you want to partner with have enough drivers in your area. Ask if the service has any sort of way of contacting the consumer to let them know if there’ll be a delivery delay (due to weather, traffic, etc.). Make sure you still get paid if the delivery service has to cancel the order due to lack of drivers, etc.

It’s your reputation. It’s your bottom line. Choose wisely.