Be careful, restaurants are using a tricky tactic on delivery apps

Bill Mount

The pandemic has been wreaking havoc with the economy, and while vaccines are being distributed, businesses and restaurants are still struggling. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs over the past year. Tap or click here to see how The Kim Komando Show helped a food bank better serve the […]

The pandemic has been wreaking havoc with the economy, and while vaccines are being distributed, businesses and restaurants are still struggling. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs over the past year. Tap or click here to see how The Kim Komando Show helped a food bank better serve the hungry.

As some businesses struggle to retain their staff, they must develop innovative ways of increasing their customer base. Some have taken to diversifying their offerings, while others have increased their advertising budgets.

But a few restaurants have decided to cheat food delivery customers. All in the name of increasing potential profits. There’s still a debate whether it’s illegal, but it’s certainly unethical. Keep reading to find out what’s been going on.

Here’s the back story

To hopefully score more orders, some restaurants started creating multiple listings on food delivery apps. The menus on the “fake” listings are the same as the original restaurant. It’s all a ruse to make consumers think a new or different is now offering what they are looking for.

When somebody places an order, the request will go to the shell restaurant. The real restaurant will then make the food and prepare it for collection. Since the pickup address is the same, the food delivery service goes to the actual eatery to collect and deliver the order.

Last year, Chuck E. Cheese and Applebee’s were exposed using this tactic on delivery apps, including Grubhub. The seemingly new restaurants were listed under different names, but the real franchise restaurant prepared the food. It’s a tricky way for a business to try and expand its customer base.

It’s wide-spread, and legal

The practice is so rampant, especially during COVID-19, that not only is it allowed on services like Grubhub, but it has a name as well. Ghost kitchens.

A recent report estimates that there could be as many as 100,000 ghost kitchens, or virtual kitchens, in the U.S. alone. Grubhub explained that the purpose isn’t to trick customers but as a way for restaurants to experiment.

“Delivery-only virtual kitchens on Grubhub — or from other food delivery companies — have been a rising trend over the last year, representing a flexible way for restaurant owners to experiment with new menu concepts, brand a subset of existing menu items, or capture unmet customer demand without adding overhead,” a spokesperson told CNN.

How to spot a ghost kitchen

While ordering from a ghost kitchen won’t diminish the quality of the food, you probably want to know exactly where it is coming from. If you want to order from an off-brand listing but get a franchise offering, you might feel duped.

Here is how to spot a ghost kitchen:

  • Google the name of the restaurant. If there are very few details available, no user reviews, or doesn’t seem to exist, it’s possibly a virtual offering.
  • Check the full description of the restaurant in the food app. Some establishments include in the fine print their affiliation to a certain brand.
  • Check and Google the address of the restaurant you are considering. If it turns out to be on the same premises as a brand, it’s a ghost kitchen.
  • Browse through the restaurant’s write-ups on Yelp! Users of the review website are usually vocal about any misdirection.   

Know your ghost kitchen

It would be impossible for us to list all 100,000 ghost kitchens in the U.S., but we know alternate names of some of the more popular offerings.

  • Chili’s and Maggiano’s Little Italy lists as It’s Just Wings.
  • Applebee’s trades as Neighborhood Wings.
  • Chuck E. Cheese lists as Pasqually’s Pizza & Wings.
  • Boston Market lists as Rotisserie Roast.
  • Chipotle has several web-only or delivery-only locations.

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