Timeline: Dubai delivery wars
A guide to the players and positions in the battle against delivery aggregator commission
It’s been one of the most talked about subjects of the coronavirus shutdown. With restaurants unable to serve customers in-house, most have turned to delivery to survive, only to be hit with up to 35% commission on each order they receive.
Although this has always been the case, with many F&B outlets now battling to still exist when the shutdown eventually ends, it has been brought to the forefront of the industry, with allegations raised and threats made as restaurants and delivery aggregators try to find an equilibrium
If you haven’t been paying attention, here’s what you missed.
March 4: With schools and universities closed and people beginning to stay at home to limit their risk of catching the coronavirus, Food Sheikh writes an open letter on behalf of the Dubai restaurant community asking delivery app platforms to lower their commission.
March 16: With no sign of aggregators budging as the crisis worsens, Zomato takes the first misstep by asking restaurants to pay almost AED1,000 for a hygiene audit. They clarify they have offered this service for years and apologise for highlighting it during a pandemic.
March 17: ChatFood and Food Sheikh combine to launch a listings platform for Dubai restaurants that takes zero commission, with all the money going straight into the pockets of local restaurants. Over 500 sign up in the first few days.
March 22: Impartial restaurant reviewer Samantha Wood, also known as FooDiva, throws her considerable popularity behind the campaign with an open letter of her own saying it is “practically impossible” for local F&B outlets to survive with these high charges.
Meanwhile, restaurants are limited to only using 20% of their capacity for dine-in, making delivery all the more important.
March 23: The full shutdown is implemented. For restaurants to make any money they must embrace delivery and takeaway only. Even high-end concepts such as Roberto’s, Coya, and 99 Sushi and Bar are now doing delivery for the first time ever.
March 24: A number of restaurants reach out to sister publication Caterer Middle East, unhappy at the demands of food aggregators. Some are expecting restaurants to offer food at 50% in return for some nebulous marketing benefits, while keeping their commission the same.
March 25: Delivery app FoodKarma becomes the first to waive its commission for Dubai restaurants. Although only a start-up, it’s a positive first step for the industry.
March 26: The Entertainer joins FoodKarma and also waives its commission. Again, not one of the big boys in the arena but a sign of the growing pressure on aggregators, and also an opportunity to be seen as a friend to the industry.
March 29: The Middle East Restaurant Association is created by GRIF. F&B outlets in the region now have a singular voice through which they can filter their concerns. In its first online help session, many of the questions are regarding delivery commission.
March 30: Zomato launches initiatives to support the F&B industry including offering loans and relief funds. But with no reduction in commission, many say it doesn’t go far enough.
March 31: Careem Now becomes one of the first of the bigger players to react to the growing clamour around commissions by reducing them by 15% for all of its partners.
April 2: Talabat comes under fire as emails are leaked to Arabain Business suggesting it will only take on new restaurant clients that give them exclusivity. However, it later backtracks and apologises for this, saying all restaurants are welcome on its platform, regardless of exclusivity.
April 5: Dine-in restrictions are extended by another two weeks at least, with more and more restaurants including La Serre, Nobu, Ronda Locatelli, and LPM now turning to delivery.