News & Opinion | July 1, 2019 11:45 am

Grubhub Is Trying to Bury Restaurants’ Internet Presence by Buying Websites With Similar Names

The company is making it harder for customers to order directly from a restaurant's site

(via Getty)
(via Getty)
Rafael Henrique/SOPA/LightRocket/Getty

While Grubhub may be a lifesaver for hungry customers, not all restaurant owners think the service is worth its weight in customer convenience. Restaurants have long contended that third-party ordering and delivery services charge businesses extremely high fees, leading many owners to encourage customers to order directly through the restaurant.

Unfortunately for those restaurant owners, Grubhub appears to be actively trying to make that more difficult for customers to do. According to Eater, a new report by the New Food Economy’s H. Claire Brown says Grubub and its subsidiary Seamless have been buying web domains that closely match the names of existing restaurants in order to compete with those restaurants’ official sites.

Grubhub has reportedly obtained the rights to over 23,000 such web domains, some of which beat out a restaurant’s official site in Google search. The sites link to Grubhub and display the same phone numbers used in Grubhub’s app. Any order placed through those phone numbers earns Grubhub a commission fee that cuts into the restaurant’s revenue. Grubhub’s shadow domains can also prevent restaurants without sites from building their own with the domain of their choice.

In a statement, Grubhub’s vice president of communications and public affairs, Brendan Lewis, defended the shadow sites as “a service to our restaurants … as another source of orders and to increase their online brand presence.”

Meanwhile, the company is already in hot water thanks to similarly questionable behavior that’s cutting into restaurant owners’ margins. As Eater reported in May, Grubhub is currently facing a class action lawsuit filed by multiple businesses accusing the service of charging additional fees for phone calls placed through the app that did not explicitly include food orders.

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