“Most people would rather see their money go right to the restaurant”: A Q&A with the founder of Not Uber Eats, a no-commission guide to Toronto takeout and delivery
While many of us spent the holidays missing loved ones and wallowing in existential dread, software developer Randy Singh used the time off to create a lifeline for local restaurants. Not Uber Eats is exactly what it sounds like—a way to order delivery from many of your favourite Toronto spots without lining the deep pockets of the evil tech overlords. Here, Singh tells Toronto Life about the inspiration for his website, what restaurants think so far and if Uber Eats has been in touch.
How did the idea for Not Uber Eats come about? Were you just sick to death of the crazy-high delivery app service charges?
My friend Gamaliel and I wanted something to keep us busy during our time off in December. I knew many restaurants were struggling and some were closing. I had also read about how delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash were charging them 30 percent commission, which seems like way too much. I noticed that some restaurants were handling their own direct delivery in order to avoid paying those fees, and maybe to pass on some savings to their customers. After reading about NotAmazon.ca, we wondered if we could do something like that, but for food. My idea was to build a site where all of the restaurants offering independent delivery could be listed in one place. I did a little research and passed the platform on to a bunch of my friends, who thought it was really cool. I definitely wasn’t thinking that this would take off the way it has.
Can you give us some numbers?
We have had 35,000 visitors to the site in the last couple of days and about 26,00 of them have clicked through to one of the restaurants. I think most people would rather see their money go right to the restaurant, but maybe they didn’t know how much the delivery apps are charging or they didn’t know there was another option. We currently have 100 restaurants featured on the site, and about 70 more that are currently in backlog. Originally it was us finding these places, but now we have restaurants reaching out to us.
How do you select which ones go on your site?
We’re happy to list any place that does their own delivery, but we’ve definitely enjoyed trying out as many restaurants as we can. There is so much great food out there that people might not know about. I had amazing ramen from Ramen Isshin at Queen and Bathurst the other day. Gamaliel had a chicken sandwich from Tokyo Hot Fried Chicken that he said was one of the best things he’s every tasted. The research is a lot of fun.
For those who aren’t aware. Can you explain how the delivery app commission works?
Uber and DoorDash were charging restaurants a commission of up to 30 per cent, plus delivery and service fees to the customer on top of that. Last month, the Ontario government introduced a new cap of 20 percent on fees to support businesses where indoor dining wasn’t allowed. It’s an improvement, but it still seems like a lot.
And how much does it cost to be on your site?
Nothing. I’m not doing this to make money. I have a full-time job as a team leader at Scotiabank. This is something I wanted to do to make a difference for businesses that are struggling to survive.
Are Bay street guys big into takeout?
We used to spend a lot of time going to restaurants—drinks after work and that kind of thing. After the pandemic hit, I spent quite a bit of time walking around my neighbourhood, trying to familiarize myself with the best local eats.
Have you gotten any feedback from the restaurants on your site?
A lot of businesses, like Cici’s Pizza in Parkdale, have reached out to say thank you or to tell us that their delivery numbers have gone up because of our site. Many of them are smaller businesses that don’t have much of a marketing budget, so this is a way of getting the word out. We’ve also heard from people and restaurant owners in other places—Montreal, California—asking about doing the same thing there. The code is on Open Source for anyone who wants to use it. I would love to see this spread to other cities.
What happens if I order a pizza through your site and it never shows up? Or my fried chicken arrives freezing cold?
We’re just a catalogue. The ordering is handled by each individual restaurant, so you’d have to reach out to them if there was an issue.
Have you heard anything from Uber Eats? Are you worried they might come after you for using their name in your title?
Not yet. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know what to expect. I think it makes a difference that I’m not making any profit off of our site. I hope they would support our goal of trying to help out local restaurants.