I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how to help restaurants, and if you care about Athens, you probably have been, too.
First and foremost, you can donate to their GoFundMes or virtual tip jars. There are too many to link to here. Yes, it’s possible some of those are shady. I wouldn’t let that stop you from helping at all. Giving restaurants cash without requiring anything in return clearly helps them stay open, whether they’re pivoting to delivery service during this pandemic or choosing to lay low or using their resources to provide meals to people who need them (Thanks to a grant from World Central Kitchen, Hugh Acheson is preparing and donating hundreds of meals a week to organizations that serve people in need, like Chess and Community, Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens and the Athens Community Council on Aging).
Lots of restaurants are trying to give you something in return, like T-shirts printed locally, or offering gift cards for the future. You can buy those.
If you’re ordering food from a place that’s still open (our list is updated regularly) and you have the ability to leave your house, picking up directly from the restaurant means a) they get to keep the money you spent on the food instead of giving a percentage to a delivery company, and b) the people who made the food get your tips, which should be large these days. It is scary to go out into the world, but it’s scary for the people who work at these restaurants, too. Allowing them to make more money off your order is the right thing to do and helps them out more.
If you cannot leave the house—and there are many, many legitimate reasons to be in that situation—please choose a locally based delivery service, like Bulldawg Food or Cosmic Delivery. Food & Wine published a good article last week on the way the big folks, like Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates and Door Dash operate. The local folks still take a cut of what the restaurant charges, but they are here, in our community.
Chuck Ramsey of Pulaski Heights BBQ says Bulldawg takes a 20 percent commission, which he thinks is fair and is lower than the national services. The big guys charge for onboarding and supplies, but Bulldawg doesn’t. When there’s a problem, he can reach the local office and get it fixed. National services sometimes add a restaurant to their site without asking the restaurant first, which leads to incorrect information and unhappy customers who end up mad at the restaurant, not at the middle-man. Ramsey said he’s also impressed with the drivers at Bulldawg, some of whom will share tips with the restaurants and most of whom know how to handle food.
“That’s not to say all Uber drivers were bad, some were great, but plenty of them definitely didn’t know how to handle food,” he says. “We had to refund quite a few orders that arrived to the customer completely mishandled. One day, one came to pick up an order, ordered food for themselves, and attempted to sit down and eat it while the customer’s food sat on the bar.”
Bulldawg offers more flexibility than the big services, too, and Ramsey said that he can make his prices slightly higher for delivery than for pick-up, compensating him some for the overall loss of revenue. National services usually have policies prohibiting that.
Tim Kelly of the Rook & Pawn confirms that Bulldawg has been considerably better than the national services for his business, as well as the fact that delivery can be a real pain for restaurants. He says: “[It’s] such a pain to have five (when Waitr was running) different iPads with five different chargers, five different processes and five different tech supports, all to get like $2 from a sandwich order—and doubly frustrating when their drivers are late/don’t show, and we take the blame.”
Scott Parrish, of The Pine, Pub on Main, et al., says that his businesses only use Bulldawg and Cosmic, to “try to keep every dollar in our community.”
Your mileage as a customer may vary on all of this, but it’s worth trying to think through the repercussions of your choices when you’re figuring out what to do for your regular Friday night pizza order.
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