Ordering Food by Phone? Check the Number

Ordering Food by Phone? Check the Number

An old phone hack is causing all kinds of anxiety and grief right now. For years, Grubhub and other third-party delivery services have assigned forwarding phone numbers to restaurants in order to use a simple voicemail system to charge for suspected phone orders.

You’ve heard it before: Press 1 to place an order, press 2 for other information. If you press 1, even if you don’t order, the restaurant will be charged a fee for the call. In practice, if you Google a restaurant that’s listed on Grubhub, Seamless, etc., there is a better-than-average chance that the number is a forwarding number, not the restaurant’s actual phone number.

This was fine back in the day, but during the pandemic — when every dollar counts and people are trying to support their local restaurants — it’s tough to justify the added administrative burden of disputing calls that do not result in an order.

Ring. Ring. Ring.

IVR: “Thank you for calling XYZ restaurant. Press 1 to place an order, press 2 for other information.”

You press 1. XYZ restaurant employee answers, “XYZ, can I help you?”

You: “I just want to know if you’re doing delivery today?”

XYZ restaurant employee: “Yes, may I take your order please.”

You. “Oh, I’m not ready to order, I was just checking to make sure you’re delivering today.” Click.

A call like that can cost a restaurant $6-$8. They can dispute it… if they have the time to figure out which call it was when they get their monthly invoice from Grubhub (or whatever delivery service they use). How many phone orders should they have to listen to twice to save the money?

That question was answered this past Wednesday by NYC as part of a larger COVID-19 relief effort. NYC passed a bill that will prevent third-party delivery platforms from charging restaurants for telephone orders that did not result in a transaction. The city also passed legislation to cap third-party restaurant delivery commissions at 15% per order for delivery and 5% per order for all other types of charges.

Grubhub has a case — after all, they provide a valuable service to restaurants — but it is easy to understand that, from the restaurant’s point of view, the economics simply don’t work. I welcome your thoughts.

Author’s note: This is not a sponsored post. I am the author of this article and it expresses my own opinions. I am not, nor is my company, receiving compensation for it.

About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.


PreviousA Tale of Three Cases NextContact Tracing

Get Briefed Every Day!

Subscribe to my daily newsletter featuring current events and the top stories in technology, media, and marketing.