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New Food Platform Aims to Give NYC Restaurants a Break from Pricey Grubhub Fees

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Plus, Sweetgreen has returned its $10 million federal loan through the PPP — and more intel

Three noodle bowls topped with various proteins Kunning Huang/Junzi Kitchen [Official Photo]

A new food platform presents itself as an alternative to pricey delivery app fees

A platform called Spread is taking aim at Grubhub and other third-party delivery companies for their high commission fees. The site connects restaurants with local customers who have opted to receive promotional details via text and email. Rather than advertising a special on Instagram, for example, founder Andy Wang says restaurant owners can text promo codes and weekly specials directly to customers, who are then directed back to the restaurant’s website instead of a third-party delivery service. Restaurants can pay flat fees based on how many customers view the promotion or actually end up ordering food, charging around $2 per click or order.

“Getting folks to order through your website and not a third party service seems like a simple ask, but for restaurants, it’s actually quite difficult,” Wang says. Of the approximately 1,000 restaurant owners that Wang has spoken with in the four years since he founded Spread, only one to 3 percent have been able to successfully pivot to accepting more direct orders than third-party delivery orders. “Our goal is to hopefully get all restaurants to that point, where they have more orders coming through their own platforms than through Grubhub,” he says. The New York-based company is currently partnering with local chain restaurants — like Joe’s Pizza, Junzi Kitchen, Blank Slate, and Two Boots — but ultimately hopes to be of service to New York City’s smaller, independent operators, as well.

While ordering from food delivery services like Grubhub and UberEats does connect restaurants with new customers, these third-party apps can charge anywhere from 15 to 35 percent of each sale in commissions. The platforms can also make meals cost up to 91 percent more for customers. These fees are the subject of a new class-action lawsuit against delivery companies Grubhub, Doordash, UberEats, and Postmates. Many owners have tried to get diners to order directly through their websites to avoid fees.

In other news:

Sweetgreen has returned the $10 million loan it received through the Paycheck Protection Program, according to a short blog posted by the company’s founders. “We learned that the [PPP] money had run out and so many small businesses and friends in the industry who needed it most did not receive any funds,” the founders say.

— Manhattan real estate company SL Green Realty Corporation has launched a non-profit organization called Food1st with an initial $1 million grant. The organization, which has partnered with Daniel Boulud, will provide frontline workers and food insecure populations with up to 1,600 meals each day starting this morning.

Gabrielle Hamilton has a long, heart-wrenching essay in the New York Times Magazine considering whether or not the city still needs a restaurant like her 20-year-old East Village mainstay Prune: “I have to hope, though, that we matter in some other alternative economy; that we are still a thread in the fabric that might unravel if you yanked us from the weave.”

— The New York City Fire Department has updated the notices that the department is posting on restaurant doors when they can’t get in to complete inspections, according to a spokesperson. The new letter no longer mentions any fines or penalties for missing an inspection.

— Bodega-inspired streetwear has arrived. For the next 72 hours, proceeds from Deli and Grocery clothing items will go toward the Mayor’s Emergency Relief Fund, which provides support to small businesses, healthcare workers, and hourly workers.

Mott Haven Bar and Grill will be serving free meals to Lehman College students from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday of this week and Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

— Greenpoint bakery Ovenly will be reopening this Saturday, April 25 for a one-day pop-up shop, according to an announcement from the restaurant. Order tonight by 6 p.m. for curbside pickup on Saturday.

— The East Village’s Dual Specialty Store is back open this week, local publication EV Grieve reports.

— The staff over at the Smith is rehearsing for reopening:

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