As the COVID-19 outbreak in Oregon continues to impact the local restaurant market, stories are popping up across the city, from food cart owners giving away free meals to chefs starting Instagram cooking classes. In this new version of AM Intel, we dive into different ways the state’s food service industry has been responding to the global pandemic. For more COVID-19 stories, check out our larger story stream.
Delivery App Dilemmas
In response to Portland city commissioners’ recently-passed cap on delivery apps’ restaurant fees, Uber Eats has added a $3 customer surcharge on all delivery orders, a sort of workaround considering the specifics of the ordinance — third-party apps can’t charge restaurants more than 10 percent of the total cost of the delivery order, and they can’t lower the wages of delivery drivers on the ground. An Uber Eats spokesperson told the Oregonian that the Portland surcharge was “the strictest” compared to other cities, and that the surcharge would help the company provide “fair pay” for its delivery workers.
Meanwhile, the Portland Independent Restaurant Alliance is calling for a boycott of GrubHub, saying that the company “redesigned” its commission structure for delivery orders to get around the city’s cap on delivery app commissions. Posting on Instagram, the restaurant association asked both restaurant owners and customers to boycott the company “until they align with the Ordinance and reimburse restaurants.” A Portland restaurant’s recent bill from Grubhub, shared with Eater PDX, does show commission deductions that exceed the 10 percent, split between “delivery commissions” and “commissions” as two separate deductions; however, a follow-up email to the restaurant owner from a Grubhub customer service representative identified the broadly defined “commissions” as a “marketing commission.”
A Grubhub spokesperson says that this split of commissions is still legal, despite the cap. “We have in no way redesigned or changed our commission structure. We have always been a marketing engine first and foremost,” a statement from a Grubhub spokesperson reads. “The ordinance applies to ‘order and delivery’ services and does not place any cap on marketing fees that Portland restaurants choose to pay that are unrelated to our order and delivery services.”
Snack Bar Pop-Up
Pop-up chef Kyle Christy (Gusto) is back with Street Disco, a residency at White Owl Social Club serving everything from hard-shell tacos to oysters on the half-shell. The day’s menu includes a standing “snack bar” menu, as well as themed days, like Taco Tuesdays and square pies on Fridays and Saturdays. Willamette Week is particularly into the pop-up’s cheeseburger pie, topped with little pickle chips and American cheese.
Speaking of pizza, the man behind one of the hottest new vegan carts in Portland, Baby Blue Pizza, is opening a mini-pizzeria within Portland food hall the Zipper. The shop will specialize in — here’s a new one — vegan Detroit-style pizza, an airy, square pan-pizza topped with a coconut-based cheese alternative. Boxcar Pizza should open as early as August.
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