How Best to Support Local Restaurants

Brian X. Chen, a personal technology columnist for The Times, has these suggestions for ordering delivery or takeout from your favorite local restaurants while letting them keep most of the money.

With so many people stuck at home, the use of food delivery apps has surged. That’s not necessarily a good thing for your neighborhood pizzeria.

Apps like Uber Eats and Grubhub charge substantial commissions to restaurants — ranging as high as 15 percent to 30 percent in New York. Recently, a Facebook post from a restaurant consultant and owner in Chicago went viral after it revealed that about $1,000 worth of Grubhub orders shrank to less than $400 in revenue for the restaurant after the delivery app took its cut.

This has led a number of people to ask me: Are there kinder ways to order food?

For starters, calling the restaurant directly to request pickup or delivery is the simplest way to keep all of the money in the restaurant’s pocket. (Make sure to get the phone number from the restaurant’s website, not Yelp, because some apps have found sneaky ways to continue charging commissions even for phone orders.)

And then there’s Tock. After the coronavirus hit, the restaurateur Nick Kokonas reconfigured his reservation app to help restaurants handle takeout orders. The team understands the food business, so it can help restaurants handle orders in a sane way: You reserve a time for pick up.

This way, the restaurants don’t get slammed all at once during peak hours, like what can happen with typical delivery apps. Tock charges a flat 3 percent commission, much less than the fees of bigger apps like Uber Eats.

I’ve used Tock several times to order takeout from my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, and I’m impressed. As soon as I have arrived for my appointed order time, the food has been ready, and there has never been a line.

So stay well and stay healthy. But while you’re doing that, try to help your local businesses do the same.

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