Tech-giant Google is facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly duping customers who order food online by funneling them to third-party ordering services that cut into small businesses’ profits.
Left Field Holdings, a restaurant franchisee based in Florida, filed the lawsuit in early March and it alleges Google pushes customers to an “authorized online storefront.”
The lawsuit says when customers Google search a restaurant an “Order Online” button appears next to the business’ information. When someone clicks the button a list of 3rd party apps is featured. At the bottom — a simple link to order directly from the restaurant.
I wanted to put it to the test to see for myself. So, when I was hungry one morning I searched for Austin-favorite Bird Bird Biscuit. The first option I saw after clicking “Order Online” is Seamless, a service of Grubhub which is third on the list itself, followed by Uber Eats. When I went to the restaurant’s website and clicked their option to order it directed me to ToastTab, a common restaurant point-of-sale software.When I looked back at the list that option came in dead last.
Why does this matter?
Well, it’s business…so money. These 3rd party apps can charge restaurants large commissions eating out of local business profits. GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, UberEats all charge eateries a commission between 15-30%.
It also costs the customers more too.
To order the vegetarian sandwich for pick up via Uber Eats the total was $10.39. To order it from the restaurant directly: $8.66. A $1.73 difference.
What can restaurants do?
If restaurants use 3rd-party services the “Order Online” page seems to set up automatically. However, it can be edited and turned off.
Businesses with a Google Business account can log in and edit their button by choosing a preferred order provider or adding and removing providers.
Google response and what’s next
Google officials said the company gets no money from displaying these links. They said it exists to help customers order easily.
However, the biggest rebuttal from local businesses is Google never “bothered to obtain permission from the restaurants.”
Now, the law firm representing Left Field is asking others to sign on to the lawsuit.
So next time you go to order from your favorite meal from the local place down the street make sure to think about what you click.