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Ordering through a food delivery app? Double-check the menu price

If you're ordering food for delivery, a bit of comparison shopping could yield significant savings.
If you're ordering food for delivery, a bit of comparison shopping could yield significant savings. Getty Images

If you’re ordering food with an app, a few extra thumb strikes could save you a few dollars on your meal.

As delivery options multiply, it’s getting easier and easier for Canadians to make food appear at their doorsteps or pick it up in person without having to wait in line. But consumers may not realize there are often significant price differences for the same menu item between the restaurant’s own website and food delivery apps, as well as among third-party apps themselves.

Promotional offers and fee surcharges also mean customers aren’t necessarily paying the same price for a given order, even when the use the same app.

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While food delivery is all about ordering dinner without getting off the couch, a bit of online comparison shopping from said couch could save consumers a significant amount on their meal.

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For example, when Global News checked the price of getting a large pepperoni pizza delivered to a residential address in east Toronto from a nearby Pizza Pizza on weekday before noon, it found the order would have cost $19.26 through Pizza Pizza itself; $18.96 through SkipTheDishes; $18.66 through DoorDash; and $17.64 through Uber Eats (all prices exclude tip).

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The price discrepancy stemmed from delivery fees, said Pizza Pizza senior marketing manager Haley McDonough in an email.

Unlike many third-party food delivery apps, “Pizza Pizza has a set delivery fee that does not change, no matter what the weather, demand, time of day or size of order is,” McDonough said.

“In addition to our non-surge delivery fee, we also guarantee our orders to be delivered in 40 minutes or they’re free (some conditions),” she added.

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Sometimes, however, even the base menu price for the same dish varies based on where consumers order from.

For example, in both Toronto and Edmonton, a High Priest burger from popular burger chain The Burger’s Priest is priced at $10.29 on the restaurant’s website but listed for $12.59 on Uber Eats, DoorDash, SkipTheDishes and Foodora.

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However, the same burger appears with its original menu price of $10.29 on Ritual, another food app that only allows customers to order for pick-up.

A spokesperson for The Burger’s Priest, which has several locations across Ontario and two restaurants in Edmonton, said the price premium on some apps helps manage the extra costs it faces to have its meals delivered.

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“Most delivery apps charge restaurants a service fee between 25 and 35 per cent of the order amount,” the company said via email.

“In addition, restaurants have experienced a significant increase in packaging costs due to delivery. While we try to absorb as much of these costs as possible, it is necessary to charge a fee for delivery.”

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A limited sampling of food-ordering options in Toronto, Edmonton and Halifax suggests consumers often pay higher menu prices when they order through delivery apps.

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For example, in Edmonton, an Oxaca Bowl from Freshii is listed for $8.99 on the company’s website, on Ritual, and on Foodora. However, the same bowl is listed for $10.79 on Uber Eats and DoorDash. On SkipTheDishes, the base price is $9.89.

Freshii declined a request for comment.

In Halifax, the base price of a Pad Thai with shrimp from Thai Express is listed as $12.18 when the dish is ordered for delivery on both the restaurant’s own platform and Uber Eats. However, the menu price for takeout varies based on location on both the company’s website and Ritual, ranging from $11.18 to $12.38.

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Global News was not able to reach Thai Express or the franchise brand owner, MTY Group, for comment despite repeated attempts.

Uber Eats said menu pricing on its app is determined by restaurants.

“We strongly encourage restaurant partners to provide the best price possible for consumers while ensuring they have a compelling business opportunity,” the company said via email.

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Foodora also lets restaurants set their own menu prices. However, “we always encourage restaurants to maintain the same prices as they offer in store,” the company said.

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SkipTheDishes said it works with restaurants to develop menu offerings specifically for delivery. The company added it “encourages” restaurants to keep any difference between the menu price and the app delivery price to less than 10 per cent.

“This margin of flexibility, which is standard in the industry, supports restaurants as they adapt to the rapidly-changing food delivery industry while providing customers the best possible experience,” it said.

READ MORE: How much does a week of groceries cost in Canada? We crunched the numbers

DoorDash declined to comment about price differentials detected by Global News.

Ritual said it does not allow upcharging on its platform, a condition that the company said is built into its merchant agreements. The company said the fee it charges restaurants is about half that of delivery apps. And when restaurants sign up their own customers, they do not pay fees on orders from those customers, the company said.

“We believe that convenience should not have to equal a premium price,” it said.