Antonia’s Italian Cuisine is one of two restaurants listed on a class action lawsuit filed against the online and app-based food delivery service Grubhub. The Hillsborough restaurant has joined The Farmer’s Wife from Sebastopol, Ca., in taking legal action for Grubhub’s alleged use of names, logos and menus without permission from the businesses. Although Antonia’s and The Farmer’s Wife are the only eateries mentioned by name, the suit says it represents more than 150,000 restaurants nationwide.
“By including restaurants, including their names and logos, on its website without authorization, Grubhub creates confusion for consumers and harms the restaurants’ reputation and business operation,” the lawsuit states. Oakland, Ca.,-based Gibbs Law Group LLP filed the suit.
Grubhub could not be reached for comment.
Brian Pearson, who, with his wife Dana, owns Antonia’s, said he has had a history of bad experiences with Grubhub, but found out about the lawsuit by chance.
“I was flipping through social media like everybody does from time to time, and there was an ad that said, ‘Are you a restaurant owner that doesn’t like what Grubhub does with your restaurant,’ and I responded ‘yes,’” said Pearson. “I got a phone call from a law office on the west coast. We got to talking about it and my experiences with Grubhub, and they said they wanted to take me on as a client.”
Pearson has owned Antonia’s for almost a year, and was approached early on by Grubhub to form a partnership that would allow the meal delivery service to use the restaurant’s name, logo, menu and other contact information on its platform.
But Pearson wanted no part of that deal. “They gave me their terms and I thought their terms were ridiculous,” Pearson said. “In essence, I would be taking a loss every time I took a Grubhub order if I agreed to their terms. So, I said ‘no thank you, I don’t want to partner with you.’
Pearson said Grubhub went ahead with using Antonia’s information — and outdated menus — on its website without his permission. He said the pandemic has intensified the need to offer delivery and carryout services. And with that, he’s become even more protective of how his restaurant and the experience of his food is represented.
In the early days of the pandemic, Antonia’s shifted to a carryout and delivery model. Once restrictions eased and the weather warmed, deliveries and carryout business dropped. Pearson said he is counting on that picking back up as colder days approach and the patio seating becomes less of an option.
“We get a lot of Grubhub orders. There’s a bunch of problems with them,” Pearson said. “Their service is problematic. I don’t hire the drivers who work for Grubhub. I don’t know what all of their service practices are. I know for a fact that they ‘stack’ orders, which means they will go out and grab three or four orders before delivering anything. Just to maximize their time. Their No. 1 priority is not optimizing the dining experience. In these times, when we’re at half capacity and we’re counting on people to enjoy their experience, every dish matters. When an order goes out through Grubhub, you have no idea what’s going to happen with it, and people are having bad experiences. They’re waiting too long for their food, their food is cold when it arrives. It’s not treated with the same care that one of my drivers would treat the meal with, so it gets flung around.”
Pearson is hopeful the lawsuit is useful in putting a stop to Grubhub’s alleged practice of misrepresenting partnerships with restaurants like his.
“Personally, I would be happy with being completely removed from their platform and just having them leave my restaurant alone,” he said. “That’s all I want. After learning about how far they’ve gone, though, I don’t have a problem with there being some kind of punitive action against them to discourage them from doing it again. But I’m not looking for any money out of this.”
“It’s been difficult. It’s been a really interesting first year,” he said.