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In-Depth: Restaurant owners frustrated after being added to GrubHub without their knowledge

Posted at 8:54 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 23:32:06-05

AVON LAKE, Ohio — Some local restaurant owners have grown increasingly frustrated at mobile delivery providers like GrubHub for adding their eateries to the platform without their knowledge or consent. GrubHub's self-admitted practice of adding non-partnered restaurants to its platform is also the target of a recently filed federal lawsuit seeking class-action status, which alleges that GrubHub has infringed upon the trademarks of more than 100,000 restaurants nationwide.

Filed in late October by a restaurant in California and another in North Carolina, the lawsuit alleges that GrubHub began to aggressively increase the number of restaurants on its platform immediately after projected earnings failed to meet expectations. Although the company wrote in a letter to shareholders that adding non-partner restaurants to the platform is the wrong long-term answer for diners, restaurants and shareholders, the company's leadership believed that it was efficient and cheap to add them anyway. The letter also states GrubHub believed it could double the number of restaurants on the platform by the end of 2020.

In a small corner parcel in an Avon Lake shopping complex, Thai Chili operates on a simple premise: treat the customer right and they'll return the favor. Over nearly a decade, Thomas DeGirolamo and his Thai-born wife, Somying, have grown the business and have developed a loyal following of regulars.

Several months ago, DeGirolamo said he began to notice delivery drivers placing orders at his restaurant and paying using GrubHub and UberEats-branded debit cards. Then the issues started, he said.

Sometimes the orders would be relayed incorrectly. Other times the food would be cold by the time the customer received it. At one point, the restaurant began receiving orders for items that were no longer on the menu, DeGirolamo said.

"We found out that [GrubHub] actually had our business posted on their platform," DeGirolamo said. "It should be by permission. They should have asked for permission because it's a business. It's like going somewhere else, taking something and saying I'm sorry."

DeGirolamo said that the addition of the restaurant onto the platform created confusion among his customers. Additionally, those that were unhappy with their orders left poor reviews of the restaurant online, despite GrubHub being at fault, DeGirolamo said.

"You get the people who can comment [online] very quickly out of anger instead of talking to us directly," DeGirolamo said. "They want money back or they complain online or leave bad reviews, which can hurt a business."

Within days of the lawsuit being filed against GrubHub, DeGirolamo said his business was finally taken off of the platform. DeGirolamo said he had spent the past four months going back and forth with GrubHub representatives requesting that Thai Chili be removed.

Thai Chili is not part of the lawsuit. GrubHub has stated that the company does not comment on pending litigation.