As Diners Flock to Delivery Apps, Restaurants Fear for Their Future
By Nathaniel Popper
Before the coronavirus lockdowns, Matt Majesky did not take much notice of the fees that Grubhub and Uber Eats charged him every time they processed an order for his restaurant, Pierogi Mountain.
But once the lockdowns began, the apps became essentially the only source of business for the barroom restaurant he ran with a partner, Charlie Greene, in Columbus, Ohio. That was when the fees to the delivery companies turned into the restaurant’s single largest cost – more than what it paid for food or labor.
Pierogi Mountain’s primary delivery company, Grubhub, took more than 40% from the average order, Majesky’s Grubhub statements show. That flipped his restaurant from almost breaking even to plunging deeply into the red. In late April, Pierogi Mountain shut down.
“You have no choice but to sign up, but there is no negotiating,” Majesky, who has applied for unemployment, said of the delivery apps. “It almost turns into a hostage situation.”
Even as apps like Grubhub have cast themselves as economic saviors for restaurants in the pandemic, their fees have become an increasing source of difficulty for the establishments. From Chicago; Pittsburgh; and Tampa, Florida, to Boise, Idaho; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Richardson, Texas, restaurant owners have taken to social media to express their unhappiness. Some restaurants have shut down, while others have cut off the apps and are looking for other ways to take orders.
Complaints about the fees that the apps charge to both restaurants and consumers are long-standing, but the issue has become heightened as many restaurants have shut down in-room dining. Even as they begin reopening, delivery is likely to remain a bigger part of their business than before the pandemic.
The gap between the success of the apps and the pain of the restaurants is striking. Spending at restaurants in recent weeks dropped about 35% from a year earlier, while revenue for the delivery services rose about 140%, according to data from M Science, a firm that analyzes transaction data.
At the heart of the issues is some basic math. For the typical restaurant, fixed costs such as labor, food and rent eat up around 90% of the money coming in. That leaves little room for the base fees that the large delivery services charge small restaurants, which generally are 20% to 30% of what customers pay for each order.
Restaurant owners are concerned about more than the apps’ fees. In 18 interviews with restaurant owners and industry consultants, plus in lawsuits and social media posts, many said Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats also engaged in deceptive practices like setting up websites with inaccurate information for the restaurants, all without asking permission.
新冠疫情重創餐飲業，外送平台雖成為業者的救星，抽成過高卻引起商家不滿，而文中第三段片語take a percentage from即指抽成，其中take可用deduct代替，另提及抽成，就容易讓人聯想到傭金，英文為commission，又delivery除指外送外，還有「運送、傳遞」等常見意思，若用於財經商業領域，還有「交貨、交割」之意。
break even為財經新聞中常見單字，指的是「損益兩平、不賺不賠」的意思，其中even意為「相等的」，同段片語in the red則是「虧損、負債」的意思，反義詞則是in the black，這是因為西方傳統記帳時，用紅墨水表示虧損，獲利數字則使用黑墨水來表示。
此外，文中首段片語take notice of表示「注意」的意思，值得注意的是，它跟pay attention to在中文裡的意思雖然相同，但在英文表達中有程度區別，前者指的只是注意一下而已。最後，eat up從字面上可知有「吃光」之意，另個常見意思則是「大量耗費」。
Economic Strain Grows, Hitting Working Mothers
By Patricia Cohen and Tiffany Hsu
Working during the pandemic has meant very different things for Virginia Dressler and for her husband, Brandon.
As he, a delivery driver, continued his routes near their home in Newbury, Ohio, she spent her days caring for their 3-year-old twins. Only after her husband came home at 6 p.m. could she turn to her job as a digital projects librarian at Kent State University, finishing her eight-hour shift from home at about 2 a.m.
Later, he was furloughed and took over some of the child care responsibilities. But now, with the economy reopening, the prospect of being summoned back to campus fills Virginia Dressler with more anxiety: Day care centers are just starting to reopen, with restrictions, so who will take care of their children?
As the pandemic upends work and home life, women have carried an outsize share of the burden, more likely to lose a job and more likely to shoulder the load of closed schools and day care. For many working mothers, the gradual reopening won’t solve their problems but compound them — forcing them out of the labor force or into part-time jobs while increasing their responsibilities at home.
The impact could last a lifetime, reducing their earning potential and work opportunities.
“We could have an entire generation of women who are hurt,” Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, said of pregnant women and working mothers whose children are too young to manage on their own. “They may spend a significant amount of time out of the workforce, or their careers could just peter out in terms of promotions.”
Women who drop out of the workforce to take care of children often have trouble getting back in, and the longer they stay out, the harder it is.
The economic crisis magnifies the downsides. Wage losses are much more severe and enduring when they occur in recessions, and workers who lose jobs now are likely to have less secure employment in the future.
Family responsibilities as well as lower wages have always pushed women in and out of the workforce. Women often leave or lose jobs to care for a sick child or aging relative. In countries that offer more comprehensive support for families – like Germany, France, Canada and Sweden – a significantly larger proportion of women are in the labor force.
Despite the miserable choices facing many working mothers, several economists retain hopes that the increased pressure on families could – over the long term – force structural and cultural changes that could benefit women: a better child care system, more flexible work arrangements, even a deeper appreciation of the sometimes overwhelming demands of managing a household with children by partners stranded at home for the first time.
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