Some Baton Rouge restaurants, customers boycotting Waitr this week

    Amid ongoing frustration with Waitr’s new performance-based rates, some restaurants and customers in Baton Rouge are planning a weeklong boycott of the food delivery platform to both voice their displeasure as well as encourage Waitr to adjust its terms. 

    A Facebook event, titled “Baton Rouge Turns Off Waitr Week,” spearheaded by local attorney Franz Borghardt, is asking restaurants and users to turn off their Waitr accounts from July 14 to July 21, in an effort to “support our local restaurants and have our actions speak up for them.”

    The Baton Rouge boycott follows a similar effort in Lafayette, where nearly two dozen area restaurants held a Waitr blackout on Sunday. Meanwhile, several restaurant owners in both cities are considering ending their Waitr partnerships, saying the changes to the pay model would mean tighter profit margins or even losses.

    The protest got off to a rough start in storm-soaked Baton Rouge on Sunday as Waitr put out a call for extra drivers to handle larger than normal demand. 

    Based on the new terms, Waitr partner restaurants with monthly food sales exceeding $20,000 will be charged a 15% commission for each transaction. Commission increases in brackets, reaching a cap of 25% for restaurants with monthly sales at or below $1,000. The terms also prohibit restaurants from charging a higher price for food ordered through Waitr, instead passing along fees charged by credit card companies to the restaurants.

    The clash between Waitr and its restaurant partners is not unique, but part of a larger trend playing out in the food delivery industry, as restaurants across the nation pushback against delivery platforms. While the food-delivery market is still hot among consumers, data suggests “growth in restaurants offering the service may be slowing,” The Wall Street Journal reports, which could limit long-term growth in delivery industry.

    Most of the major platforms, such as GrubHub, already charge high commission rates. Waitr’s new fees, in fact, are still lower than its competitors, which can be 30%-35%. 

    Still, those unhappy with the Louisiana startup—once celebrated as a champion for local eateries—are saying Waitr’s new rates are too high and unfairly targeting small restaurants with less volume. 

    Borghardt says the response to his Waitr boycott event has been “pretty good” so far, with a number of restaurants saying they will either participate in the weeklong shutdown or pull their agreement with Waitr completely. 

    “Even more overwhelming is the response from customers saying they won’t be using Waitr because the new model hurts our local restaurants,” he says. “The idea behind this is hopefully Waitr will reconsider, talk to restaurants and work out something that’s fair. I like Waitr. I’ve used Waitr. A lot of us in Baton Rouge just feel it’s kind of separating itself from its origins.” 

    Waitr officials say the company will continue to provide restaurants “the lowest fees in the delivery industry” as it moves toward performance-based rates on Aug. 1. Those with the highest order volume will pay a rate half that of most national competitors, while those with lower volume also still pay lower rates than they would with other platforms.

    The success of our restaurant partners is our first priority,” says Waitr spokesman Dean Turcol, “and we will work closely with our partners to optimize their delivery success in order drive rates to the lower end of the scale across the board.”

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