(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

New apps emerge amid COVID-19 to tackle gripes with popular delivery services

Instead of relying on Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes or DoorDash, restaurants are turning to new options

When the weekend rolls around, Torontonians won’t have to miss the White Lily Diner’s thick-cut bacon, organic corn grits and toast smeared in rhubarb hibiscus jam just because the country has plunged into a pandemic.

The east-end diner is selling its brunch staples and offering to drop them at customers’ doors, but the process won’t involve any of the familiar delivery apps whose couriers have become a fixture on busy streets in recent years.

Instead of relying on Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes or DoorDash, White Lily is using a new entrant to the market: Tock To Go.

“The biggest draw off the bat was probably just the fact that they’re so much less expensive,” said White Lily co-owner Ashley Lloyd, who laid off her entire staff when she closed the restaurant to dine-in meals amid COVID-19.

“Restaurant margins are slim…I can understand people turning to (their delivery competitors), but honestly I don’t know how they do it.”

Tock To Go is part of a new wave of food delivery companies hitting the Canadian market, hoping to attract vendors with features like lower commissions and fill the hole Foodora will leave behind when it shutters its Canadian operations in mid-May.

READ MORE: Local restaurants feel squeezed by delivery apps’ commission fees

The services — Ottawa’s Love Local Delivery, Vancouver’s From To, Toronto’s volunteer-run iRover and new delivery features on Montreal’s Eva — have been created to help out in a tough moment, when restaurants are barely scraping by — even as demand for food delivery surges.

These services want to do things differently from the household names, so they have eliminated commission fees or offered rates well below the 10- to 30-per cent charged by Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes, DoorDash and others.

Tock To Go, a Chicago-based service from restaurateur Nick Kokonas that evolved from his Tock reservation system, only takes a 3 per cent commission from restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto.

Tock first appeared in the cities in 2018, but didn’t launch Tock to Go until the pandemic started. Tock to Go doesn’t have couriers to deliver meals. Instead, it asks customers to pre-order food, helping restaurants arrange their own delivery.

“Ordering apps take up to 20 to 30 (per cent), which simply is not sustainable for restaurants,” Tock’s director of marketing Kyle Welter said in an email.

“Tock allows each restaurant to specify the number of orders for any set time range, so the kitchen doesn’t get overwhelmed and they can responsibly manage the flow of customers.”

Over in B.C., Brandon Grossutti from Gastown restaurant Pidgin will launch From To, a delivery service with a handful of Vancouver eateries, in May.

In the weeks before restaurants in Canada closed to stop the spread of COVID-19, Grossutti realized Pidgin would need a takeout option, so he signed up with Uber Eats and Burnaby-based Fantuan Delivery.

“Then the reality of it hit. We did fairly well gross wise, but you see the checks coming in and…the first week was a lot of money out the door in commissions,” said Grossutti, who had to lay off workers

“It’s a weirdly parasitic relationship where you have a parasite basically eating its hosts until it dies and it’s not a sustainable relationship.”

Grossutti decided to put his software industry background to work. He made From To, which gives restaurants the ability to decide if they want to pay for, split with or pass on customers’ delivery costs.

From To currently takes no commission.

“We had talked at certain points about taking like 5 per cent, which would be much less than what’s out there, but we realized that during this time we need to make this sustainable because people are already losing money,” Grossutti said.

The lower commissions don’t seem to have bothered rivals.

“We welcome new competitors to the market, as it raises awareness of the industry and promotes even more traffic to restaurants to stimulate growth,” Winnipeg-bred SkipTheDishes said in an email to The Canadian Press.

“It is natural for competitors to see value in this market and we’re confident in Skip’s position as Canada’s homegrown food delivery company.”

READ MORE: B.C. to allow restaurants to hire laid-off servers to deliver alcohol

SkipTheDishes is offering a 10.5 per cent commission deal to restaurants wanting to do their own deliveries but still use the platform and is expediting payments to all businesses using its services.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Uber Eats is eliminating its fees on pickup orders and reducing its usual 30 per cent charges to 15 per cent for restaurants who choose to use their own delivery people.

DoorDash, also headquartered in San Francisco, is waiving April commission fees for new, independent clients. Existing independent clients can have those fees waived on pickup orders, and 100,000 clients were added to DashPass — its subscription program which offers $0 delivery for consumers — for free.

Harriet Clunie, the executive chef at European-style bistro Das Lokal, said that is not enough because the moves put the onus on restaurateurs to offset costs or hire their own delivery staff to take advantage of benefits.

She banded together with other members of the Ottawa restaurant community to found Love Local Delivery, a service that launched in March and will courier food within 5 kilometres of restaurants for a flat $5 fee, or more for longer distances.

There are no commission fees right now and the service focuses solely on independently-owned restaurants.

While it might have to charge commission when it launches an app in the near future, Clunie said the service is committed to keeping that potential fee low.

“It’s all people that are in the same boat and we’re trying to help everybody that’s struggling, restaurants or small businesses or drivers that are unemployed and just trying to make some money to feed the family,” she said.

“It’s an approach that’s really trying to lift everybody up.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusFood

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Ty Hainsworth / Facebook)
No injuries after fire rips through Saran Fruit Market near Oliver

A fruit stand caught fire Tuesday afternoon

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

Trixie, an Elf on a Shelf like the one pictured here, will hiding around Osoyoos' parks in December. (Contributed)
Can you find Trixie the Elf in Osoyoos?

The elf has left the shelf to hide in the parks around town

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Garage in Kelowna burns to the ground, blaze deemed suspicious

Fire crews responded to the scene just after 4:30 p.m.

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Damien Smith, with father Thomas Smith, is “frozen” with joy as he watches a special message Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds recorded for Damien’s 9th birthday on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. (Contributed)
Shuswap boy celebrates 9th birthday with family, community and Ryan Reynolds

People from around the world send birthday cards showing young Canoe resident he’s not alone

A major reconstruction project on 32nd Avenue is nearing completion and the road is now re-opened to traffic between 33rd Street and 35th Street. (City of Vernon photo)
ROAD REPORT: More roundabouts coming to North Okanagan

New intersection lights up Dec. 13, 30th Street paving delayed, PV Road completed in Vernon

In this handout photo provided by the Philippine Red Cross, families stay at a temporary evacuation center at Catanduanes province, eastern Philippines, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, as Typhoon Goni hits the country. Families living near coastal towns have moved to evacuation centers as the strong typhoon makes landfall. (Philippine Red Cross via AP)
Okanagan community group organizes fundraiser for typhoon-hit Philippines

Over two million people have been affected by flooding, with about 500,000 forced to leave homes

O’Rourkes Peak Cellars is located in Lake Country, B.C. (Contributed)
Lake Country winery temporarily closes due to possible COVID-19 exposure

The establishment plans to reopen on Dec. 4 after a deep clean

Most Read