Fuck Uber Eats. Fuck Uber in general. They are an economic parasite and a social cancer. Lured by the recent Good Food article listing it as one of the best pizza restaurants in Melbourne, I agreed to accompany a Coburg friend across the western border into Pascoe Vale South to eat at Shop 225 Pizzeria on Melville Rd on a balmy Friday autumn evening. The capricciosa and bianca gamberi are both divine, but I’ll never go there again. Uber Eats disrupted our evening.
She had booked a table and we arrived promptly. Soon after the waiter appeared to give an outdoor table for two marked ‘reserved’ away to someone without a booking. We ended up at the front bar looking out onto the street, which was accidentally good for us as the outdoor table came with uncomfortable stools about the size of the palm of my hand, and people at the other outdoor tables were smoking. Gross.
We ordered and waited. And waited. Our entree serve of olives arrived promptly but the pizzas took an hour. While we waited we watched stacks of pizzas depart with one Uber Eats driver after another. In this hour we estimated that the amount of food that left the building for online orders eclipsed those for eat-in customers and traditional take-away from locals who ordered via phone or came on foot and stood around on the footpath looking increasingly unhappy. A Richmond pizza shop estimates that 60-80% of its orders come online and this number seems consistent with what we witnessed at Shop 225.
Instagram photos suggest the shop was fitted out in August and opened in September 2015. A Good Food review from October 2016 notes the simplicity of the offering, with no sides or salads. That’s changed as they now have both, along with pasta dishes like lasagne. Their website is the typical ultra minimalist one page with links to ordering online and social media, their phone number, street address and menu. According to their Facebook posts, the website and listing in Uber Eats both date to December 2016.
To summarise, it looks like a simple suburban pizzeria, initially known mainly to locals (there is an old school uninspiring looking and very empty pizza place a couple of doors down) that has become, thanks to the combination of online media and ordering, an out of control customer service nightmare within a couple of months. The waiter was obsequious with apologies but we were close to walking out. Another table did. The pressure is likely to have a negative impact on quality as well as timeliness.
A full restaurant can turn away unbooked walk-ins. It can ignore the phone and reduce the number of offline take-away orders to control the production line. But as far as I know it can’t control or limit the number of Uber Eats orders. Their FAQ for restaurants doesn’t mention what to do when you can’t cope with the number of orders you’re receiving. Of course it doesn’t. They don’t give a fuck about causing chaos and undermining the customer experience for everyone.
The short-term solution is obvious, at least in this instance. Shop 225 needs to partner with the uncool pizza shop a couple of doors down, with one doing the online orders and the other the eat-in and local takeaways. In the long-term, however, there are significant risks here for small businesses like these.
What happens when the hype is over and the next 400 Gradi clone opens in the next suburb over and gets all the attention? Those online orders are going to decline as quickly as they grew. Meanwhile, your previously loyal local customers will have been sufficiently annoyed by the unacceptably slow customer service and will have gone elsewhere, leaving insufficient custom to remain trading. It could result in the closure of otherwise healthy businesses.
The online hype and ordering combination may exaggerate the boom and (hypothetical future) bust cycle. It’s not good for anyone except Uber Eats, which has stimulated demand at the expense of consumers (who wait longer for food, whether eating-in or via delivery) and small businesses (who have no control over the number of orders they are required to produce).
So fuck Uber Eats. Why pay more money for less quality? Why are people so lazy and keen to be exploited by the latest online trend? If you want to be confident that your favourite local suburban restaurant will still be there in five years time, walk there rather than ordering online.