With Waitr no longer the only option in town, Baton Rouge restaurant owners have been adding, or at least exploring, the addition of multiple delivery apps that have entered the market in recent years like DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Postmates.
Some restaurant owners pulled their Waitr partnerships after the Lake Charles-based food delivery app switched its terms last summer to a controversial “performance-based rate structure.” Many have kept Waitr, but aren’t married to having just one app; instead, they’re expanding their options as they see where the customers are.
Ozzie Fernandez, whose Izzo’s Illegal Burrito is the only of his concepts available on delivery apps, says Waitr is facing increased competition from DoorDash and UberEats, both of which he added locally in the past year-and-a-half.
“Waitr used to be No. 1 here, but DoorDash and Uber Eats are slowly catching up; some days, they’re almost even,” Fernandez says. “The customer is starting to try out different platforms to see who will service them best and how quickly they can get their orders.”
In addition to Waitr, Stephen Hightower offers delivery services from Grubhub, Uber Eats and Postmates at his City Slice, City Pork Jefferson and City Pork Catering establishments, which he says “makes great sense” as pizza and catering are largely to-go-driven products. However, he only offers Waitr at City Pork Brasserie and doesn’t offer anything at Rouj Creole, wanting people to have the experience of dining in.
Meanwhile, Zippy’s owner Neal Hendrick says he’s looking to add more delivery options on top of Waitr, aiming to add all of the options available in Baton Rouge—a better investment than Zippy’s hiring its own drivers, he says, estimating “prohibitively expensive” insurance costs in the neighborhood of $20,000 a year for such a service.
“Each seems to have its own kind of niche audience,” Hendrick says. “The delivery crowd is kind of a mystery to us, but it’s a solid number each week, and we’ve seen that people who want the service of delivery are willing to pay more to get it.”
Mitch Rotolo, owner of Rotolo’s Pizzeria, also wants to add more delivery apps to his portfolio rather than replace Waitr, saying he wouldn’t want to lose a potential customer because their preferred vendor doesn’t deliver his pizza. He’s even considering adding DoorDash, since resolving an issue when the company used his and other restaurants’ registered trademarks without their permission.
Sheryl Fontenot, CEO of The Jambalaya Shoppe, says her store owners are still angry with Waitr over the new rate structure, but customers are still using the app.
“Even if we are losing a little money on it,” says Fontenot, “we would not turn down a customer.”