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Coronavirus: Ontario restaurants relying on Uber Eats angry about weekend outage

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TORONTO — When Leemo Han transitioned his Hanmoto, Seoul Shakers and Pinky’s Ca Phe restaurants to Uber Eats delivery last week, he envisioned a steady stream of orders leaving the kitchen.

Instead, Han says he had piles of hot meal orders getting cold and barely one Uber Eats driver an hour coming through the door to take them to customers.

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Han blames the Uber Eats app, which was sending orders to his restaurants but frequently giving them and other Ontario businesses error messages all weekend.

“It was such a waste. At one point, I had to tell my guys, ‘don’t make it,”’ says Han.

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Uber Eats told The Canadian Press the recent outage was caused by a “technical issue.”

It is compensating restaurants that had unfulfilled orders and encouraging customers who were affected by the outage to place new orders with an Uber Eats-funded $25 promotion code.

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Han, who had just re-opened after closing his restaurants for a month during the COVID-19 outbreak, says he’s now accepting email orders and doing deliveries himself, a method he will continue for the foreseeable future.

The incident places Han in a group of restaurant owners who say Uber Eats has disappointed them and eroded their ability to make money in a time when they need it most.

They are now looking at other courier options and fleeing Uber Eats, which research firm Statista estimates has 25 per cent of the global food delivery market _ the second largest share after U.K.-based Just Eat.

Canada has been a particularly important battleground for delivery companies because it is the birthplace of Uber Eats, which was piloted with a handful of restaurants in Toronto in December 2015.

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Uber Eats now provides delivery for tens of thousands of restaurants, and has snatched up deals with McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, A&W and Starbucks.

Hot on the heels of Uber Eats are competitors SkipTheDishes, DoorDash and Chanmao.

The Uber Eats outage, when compounded with years of complaints about the 30 per cent commission the company takes on orders, may have done its rivals a favour.

Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Chanmao, which services the Greater Toronto Area, Waterloo, Hamilton, Halifax, Edmonton and Winnipeg, experienced about a 20 per cent increase in orders during the outage, vice-president Ivy Chen told The Canadian Press in an email.

Craig’s Cookies, a Toronto company selling decadent cookies stuffed with treats like Oreos, cream eggs and brownies, has decided to drop Uber Eats and switch to DoorDash.

READ MORE: Experts weigh the pros and cons of food pickup, delivery amid coronavirus

“I’m really mad about Uber Eats saying that it’s a relationship, that we work together,” says owner Craig Pike, who adds that he wasn’t notified of the weekend outage.

“They have a lot of restaurants put into a corner and they’re not being responsible about it.”

The outages come after Pike spent a week tussling with Uber Eats about its policies that prevent restaurants from accepting tips beyond $2.

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Pike wanted to allow customers to tip more.

“Right now a lot of people are ordering $100 of food on Uber Eats and the only option for the consumer is to be able to leave a $2 gift for the restaurant, which isn’t helpful when it comes to people working at restaurants and still relying on the subsidy of a gratuity to help the pay the bills,” he said.

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He estimates he lost $9,000 over the weekend because of the Uber Eats outage _ a tough blow for a business that already had to cut staff and usually sees all of its weekend orders come from the platform.

“Uber Eats might think that they’re doing the best that they can, but from the outside, it really, really doesn’t feel that way,” Pike says

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He says Craig’s Cookies will stay on Uber Eats for a week or two longer as customers switch over to DoorDash.

As for Pike, he said he’s just taking things “one cookie at a time.”

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