There’s no doubt that the spread of Covid-19 has been a blow to the hospitality industry as a whole. With restaurants in the region having ceased all dine-in options, food delivery remains their only source of income. In light of this, anonymous Dubai food blogger Food Sheikh, and online ordering platform ChatFood have teamed up to create an online ordering platform that directly connects restaurants with customers, for a limited time only.
Deliverdxb does not charge restaurants commission fees or have a contract. It is not a restaurant discovery website, but a way for UAE residents to support local establishments. As the website states: "For you, it's simply ordering directly with the restaurant instead of an app. For the restaurant, it could be the difference between their survival as a business and staying closed forever."
It all started when Food Sheikh sent an open letter to third-party aggregators on March 4, imploring them to waive or reduce their commission rates. Having worked in the food and beverage industry for 17 years, he had a better understanding on how the commission rates and delivery fees from third party apps can hurt small businesses.
“Third party apps already charge as much as 35 per cent as a commission rate, and some also charge delivery fees. If a restaurant is offering a 50 per cent discount or promotion through these apps, chances are they’re not making any money on that. They’re doing it for the exposure. And during times like these, they cannot dilute their revenue any more. Supporting the local community is something I’ve always been passionate about and because of Covid-19, the industry is threatened. I’m not using that word lightly - it is going to be really tough time for small operators.”
Food Sheikh’s letter did not elicit the kind of response he was hoping for from third party aggregators. “Don’t get me wrong, they have changed the food scene and provide a great customer experience,” he adds. “But, in my opinion, there’s more they can do to support the hand that feeds them – if local restaurants aren’t able to survive, neither will they.”
However, his open letter did get the attention of ChatFood which contacted him shortly after. Deliverdxb.com was launched just 48 hours later.
“It is a lot of work to manage so many restaurants and answer their queries,” says Food Sheikh. “And it was always meant to be a temporary measure until things go back to normal in a few weeks. But every day we are getting more positive feedback – let’s see what the future brings.”
The platform comes at a time when a number of UAE bloggers are rallying behind home-grown and local restaurants. Earlier this week, Samantha Wood of Foodiva penned an open letter to food delivery aggregators in the region urging them to reduce commission rates during times of crisis.
What are third party delivery apps doing?
In light of current circumstances, a number of third party apps have issued temporary orders to help the food and beverage industry. Talabat has announced that it will waive delivery fees based on consumers proximity to a restaurant, regionwide. Tomaso Rodriguez, Talabat CEO says, “In this challenging time, we have set ourselves two very clear objectives: First, we take the responsibility to ensure everyone stays safe and healthy very seriously. Second, we focus on ensuring there is business continuity - for everyone in our ecosystem, including restaurants, riders and our customers.
“We fully understand it is our shared responsibility to build a business model that ensures business continuity. We are focused on supporting small and medium sized restaurants, in turn, ensuring our support to the business community. Our top priority is to ensure the safety of all stakeholders, while driving the business in a viable and responsible manner.”
Uber Eats has launched a similar initiative. "We know the coming weeks will be challenging for many local businesses, and that's why in support of our local community, delivery fees are waived for customers on orders from all local restaurants across the UAE until further notice," an Uber Eats spokesperson told The National. "We're also promoting local restaurants to users in-app and through email marketing to drive people towards local restaurants."
As of this moment, The National has reached out to Deliveroo for comment. Zomato has declined to comment.