One of the major beneficiaries of the COVID-19 pandemic have been the third-party delivery services — Uber Eats, DoorDash, and the like.
These entities represented a small but growing presence in the dining out world prior to the shutdowns that began in March of this year; since the start of lockdown their share of aggregate restaurant transactions have grown dramatically, from 3% to 7%. Grubhub, for instance, recently reported that it now has more than 27 million users active on its app-based platform, and daily orders placed through it had increased 32% over last year.
One business unknown for Grubhub and its competitors is whether or not this growth in business represents a trend or is just a pandemic-induced spike. In a recent letter to investors, Grubhub’s management asserts that the current growth is “sticky” and will be sustained.
There’s another problem for third-party delivery — it’s not currently profitable for either the services or the restaurants supplying the food. Grubhub, for instance, reported a 77 cents per order loss during its most current quarter, a period of time the service spent $100 million to “drive more eyeballs” to its app.
The bottom line impact on restaurants involved with third-party delivery services can be even more severe. Required to “wholesale” their food to Grubhub and others at discounts of 20% or more, restaurants lose money – sometimes quite substantial amounts — on every third party delivery order they accept.
Some restaurants attempt to get around this commission problem by charging higher prices for third party delivery service orders, but those services usually have a clause embedded in their contracts with individual restaurants that requires “price parity” across delivery and to-go services, even if the order is a curbside pickup.
Thus the business model for third-party delivery services may prove untenable, at least in its current form. Subsidized by both the restaurants producing the food and investors who are putting up capital to cover the operating losses of these services, there’s a real question as to the long-term viability of third-party delivery as it’s currently constituted.
Though the restaurant has resumed socially distanced indoor dining, the Federal Restaurant & Bar in Agawam continues to offer its Federal Family Packages as a take-out alternative. Designed to serve five, the packages include salad, entree, and dessert.
Main dish choices include chicken Bolognese, trufffled mac and cheese, rosemary-roasted chicken breast, grilled Atlantic salmon, and beef short ribs braised in red wine.
Four dessert options are available – chocolate truffle cake, warm Nutella crepes, pecan caramel cheesecake, and vanilla poppyseed cake with fresh berries.
Available Tuesday through Saturday, the packages can be ordered starting at 3 p.m. daily.
Call (413) 789-1267 for information or to place an order.
Back in 2015 Danny Meyers, the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group in New York City, took aim at a tipping system he labeled as “broken,” replacing it with what he christened as “Hospitality Included,” an upward revision of menu prices that substituted for the revenue traditional tipping practices generated.
Late last month Meyers abandoned Hospitality Included, reopening his New York City restaurants with a traditional tip-based menu pricing structure.
Blaming “cultural norms” and the currently tenuous nature of the restaurant business, Union Square Hospitality Group locations now once again rely on tips as part of the compensation their servers receive.
Meyers continues, however, to be critical of the pay disparities between front- and back-of-the house that tipping creates.
Restaurant Hospitality, along with the pork processor Smithfield Culinary, is promoting a Best Sandwiches in America 2020 competition.
Open to culinary professionals and their between-bread artistry (the competition does not include burger variations), the contest closes on August 28, 2020.
There are no prizes beyond bragging rights, but winners in each category will be showcased in the October 2020 issue of Restaurant Hospitality and on Restaurant-Hospitality.com.
Official contest rules and entry forms are available on line at restaurant-hospitality.com/best-sandwiches/best-sandwiches-america-2020-contest-entry.
Chez Josef in Agawam is promoting a weekend at-home dining option in the form of its Chez 2 Go BBQ Family Packs.
Designed to satisfy five hungry souls, the packs include baby back ribs, mesquite grilled chicken, homestyle mac & cheese, baked bean, coleslaw, and cheddar corn bread.
Dessert in the form of assorted cupcakes is also part of the package experience.
The BBQ Family Packs are “heat ‘n’ eat”; they can be pre-ordered for curbside pickup or local delivery.
Chez Josef has also been featuring, on a limited-time-only basis, Polish Themed Family Packs that feature kielbasa, stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes, and Polish cucumber salad as well as a dessert option.
Call (413) 355-5393 for additional details or to place an order.
Responding to the shifting trends characteristic of pandemic-era dining, Denny’s Corp. has announced that it is streamlining the menu in its restaurant locations, optimizing it for off-premises sales and increased kitchen efficiency.
Denny’s has also supplemented its Shareable Family Packs, pick-up meals designed to accommodate four or five, with a carry-out selection of desserts and milkshakes.
The chain additionally revealed that it has closed 31 underperforming restaurants so far this year, citing precipitous declines in store revenue at those locations.
The Irish Cultural Center in West Springfield is promoting its Irish House Restaurant and Trinity Pub by serving a free scoop of ice cream with every meal purchased.
The Irish House is currently hosting guests on its spacious patio as well as on a socially distanced basis in its dining room. Dinner is served Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Reservations are encouraged but walk-in patrons are accommodated as space permits.
The Center sponsors live music, with specific performers and dates listed at irishcenterwne.org.
Contact the Irish Cultural Center at (413) 342-4358 for more details.
Dine Out Boston, the restaurant week event sponsored twice a year by the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, begins its summer-season run on Sunday, August 16.
Organized under the tag line of “Dining Out Together Again,” Dine Out Boston has recruited over a hundred eateries. Prices for special three-course menus are set for lunch at $15/$20/$25 and for dinner at $28/$33/$38. The restaurant week runs through August 28 but doesn’t include Saturday, August 22.
A complete directory of participating establishments can be found at bostonusa.com. The Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau answer at (888) SEE-BOSTON.
The Student Prince Cafe and Fort Restaurant in downtown Springfield has extended its hours and is once again open on Sundays, serving from 11 a.m.to 6 p.m. As of August 6 brunch has resumed as well.
The restaurant is currently featuring its “Tomahawk Steak for Two,” a shareable-sized, bone-in ribeye cut. The steak is available Friday and Saturday evenings both inside the restaurant and outside on the Fort Street dining space.
Reservations at the Student Prince can be made by calling (413) 734-7475.
Dunkin’, the Canton, MA-based coffee shop chain, is treating members of its loyalty program, DD Perks, to a pair of freebies this month.
On “Free Coffee Mondays” DD Perks members can claim a free medium cup of hot or iced coffee with the purchase of any food item. Free Coffee Mondays runs through August 17.
“Free Donut Fridays” is a reprise of an DD Perks benefit that was available earlier this year. On Fridays through August 21 DD Perks members get a free classic donut with the purchase of any beverage.
Both offers are subject to some limitations as to the products eligible.
To take advantage of DD Perks, those interested can download the Dunkin’ app to their smartphone or enroll at DDPerks.com.
Max’s Tavern at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield is currently hosting a weekly series of dining events.
These “Tavern Tastings,” created by Executive Chef Nate Waugaman, are special prix fixe menus paired with hand crafted cocktails.
The inaugural Tasting was a five-course experience that included the likes of a corn fritter, an heirloom cherry tomato salad, a seafood course of sea scallops, and a prime New York strip steak. A dessert course is also part of the Tastings lineup.
Menus change weekly and are typically available anytime between 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Reservations are required.
For details on this week’s Tavern Tastings, contact Max’s Tavern at (413) 746-6299.
Hugh Robert is a faculty member in Holyoke Community College’s hospitality and culinary arts program and has nearly 45 years of restaurant and educational experience. Robert can be reached at OffTheMenuGuy@aol.com.