- by Kris Heathers

Like many restaurants still open during the COVID-19 pandemic, deliveries are now a primary revenue source at Elsie’s Diner. Unfortunately, relying on third-party companies to get our food orders into customers' hands comes with a big hit on the bottom line. Uber Eats, Door Dash and SKIP the Dishes are the big ones, and they take a big chunk of the bill. SKIP has been around Owen Sound now for over a year but Uber Eats and Door Dash are new to the area.

Elsie's understands that we absolutely need to provide deliveries in these challenging times, but small independent restaurants like us can’t afford our own delivery service and the advertising needed for promotion. So, we are stuck with delivery apps. SKIP charges us a 25 percent commission plus an online credit card fee for each order. Uber Eats and Door Dash are coming and are currently recruiting restaurants. But the margins we work with are already so slim that we barely make any money on them. Even when a customer orders through the app but comes to pick it up, we still pay 10% to SKIP.

Looking ahead, I worry that delivery apps will destroy small independent restaurants, especially considering that many of our competitors are large franchises. When the pandemic hit in March only a few franchised restaurants in Owen Sound used delivery apps, but as COVID-19 set in, most made the transition. These franchises have negotiated lower commissions, so, as delivery apps have become entrenched locally, they have an unfair advantage compared to us little guys. As well, with their arrangements, franchises can offer promotions such as free delivery that small independants cannot match. If nothing is done it is almost certain that when this pandemic is over - the only survivors in our region will be the franchised restaurants.

One possible remedy is for governments to cap delivery commissions at something like 15 percent. It may have to come to that, but a more immediate appealing approach is for local residents to realize how important it is to order take out directly with your favorite restaurant and pick it up yourselves if possible.

Kris Heathers, is the Owner/Operator of Elsie’s Diner