business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The New York Times had a story the other day that put a spotlight on food delivery fees.

The story says that "when you order through a delivery app, you pay multiple parties, including the driver and the companies that offer the apps, like Uber Eats and Postmates. In some cases, you pay the restaurants extra fees as well.

"The markups can be downright egregious. Take Panda Express, the fast-food chain. If you ordered a $39 Family Feast value meal using Uber Eats, your tab would be 49 percent higher than if you bought the same meal at the restaurant.

"You would have to really love Panda Express to pay this kind of premium — and that doesn’t even include a tip.

"The extra fees creep into your bill for various reasons. Some restaurants hike the prices of food ordered for delivery. And most of the popular apps charge a delivery fee and cram tax and extra service costs into a single line on the bill, making it difficult to notice the inflated costs."

The story suggests that depending on the fast food restaurant and the delivery app, markups can range between 10 and 90 percent.

To be clear, I haven't confirmed this.  In fact, I have never used an app to order fast food.  Other than Chinese food and pizza - for which I use local purveyors, not chains - I'd rather buy food at a supermarket and make it at home.  (One exception: Green Zebra in Portland, which makes a helluva tuna melt.  I'll use the ChowNow app to order it - no markup over store prices - and then will walk a couple of blocks to pick it up myself.)

But it seems to me that if these numbers are even close to accurate, they ought to be the focus of some sort of retailer-centric marketing program that challenges the conventional wisdom of fast food in general, and the costs of ordering it via app specifically.

Fast food just ain't worth it.

It will require some infrastructure to back it up, but food retailers ought to be making the following pitch to consumers:

Don't waste a meal.

Which, to be honest, is a corollary to the axioms … life is too short to drink cheap wine … lousy beer … and eat lousy food.

There ought to be an app for that.