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A headline in last weekend’s Washington Post was stark: “Restaurants are barely surviving. Delivery apps will kill them.”

To many Food & Dining Magazine readers this may come as a surprise. Over the last few months, many of us have turned en masse to delivery and carry-out dining not just because it’s convenient, but also because we are committed to helping our treasured restaurant community survive this crisis.

And F&D has been at the forefront of that cause with our comprehensive effort to document and share information about restaurant carry-out and delivery operations across the Metro.

But early on during the Covid crisis, we started hearing anecdotes suggesting that third party delivery services were engaging in predatory business practices that were actually harming area restaurants.

At first firms like GrubHub, Postmates, Uber Eats, and DoorDash seemed like lifelines for both restaurants and diners.

That first wave of isolated stories started to form a pattern, and some weeks ago F&D writer Michael Jones decided to investigate. What Jones found was that many of these third party delivery firms have deployed an alarming array of business practices designed to exploit and deceive both restaurants and customers. Restaurants that were already under duress from the Covid crisis found themselves the victims of digital extortion schemes that not only damaged their finances, but also hurt their reputations by diminishing the quality of a customer’s experience.

Beginning soon, F&D will run Michael‘s reporting in a three-part daily series of articles that recount the experiences and perceptions of area restaurateurs and drivers, as well as a locally-based delivery firm that’s building responsible relationships with local restaurants. Michael’s reporting will help you sort through how to avoid the traps, get the best quality service, and insure that your dining dollars are getting to the right place: the cash registers of our local restaurants.

In addition to Michael’s reporting, F&D has also taken action to assist area restaurants that are grappling with these issues. On June 1 we announced our collaboration with web design firm Mr and Mrs Smith to develop a free online custom ordering platform designed specifically to assist restaurateurs who need assistance in making direct connections to their customers.