Restaurants plan Waitr blackout in protest to new business terms
Waitr announced new terms for its partner restaurants last week that could mean slimmer profit margins — or even losses — for restaurants that sign the new agreement. The backlash was swift, especially among restaurant owners in Acadiana who have partnered with Waitr since its launch in 2015.
At least 20 restaurant owners in Acadiana plan to protest Waitr's new "performance-based rate structure" by boycotting the delivery platform Sunday. And several Baton Rouge businesses are concerned about the new arrangement.
The new pay model uses a sliding scale: Waitr will take a higher commission for restaurants that have a smaller volume of sales and a lower commission for those that have a larger volume.
Restaurants with monthly food sales from the Waitr platform that exceed $20,000 will be charged a 15% commission from Waitr for every transaction, according to the new Master Services Agreement sent to restaurants. The commission increases in brackets, reaching a cap at 25% for restaurants with monthly food sales at or below $1,000, the agreement says.
Mitch Rotolo, founder and chief executive officer of Rotolo’s Pizzeria, exclusively partnered with Waitr at its 20 restaurants in south Louisiana prior to the controversy. But now, he said the company has opened the door to any delivery business that wants to come in.
"We’re very concerned about Waitr changing their fee structure," Rotolo said. "If their model requires more revenue, they need to ask the customer to pay more for the service, instead of going back to the vendor and squeezing them. That’s unfair."
Ray VanMerrienboer, owner of Red Zeppelin Pizza in Baton Rouge, said he is dissecting the new Waitr terms. His restaurant was one of the first in the market to partner with Waitr but sales through the delivery service have declined as more competitors joined the market. Waitr now accounts for 25% of Red Zeppelin’s to-go sales.
He said the new fees will trim restaurants that don’t get used that much by Waitr, so he may see more sales if there’s less competition on the platform.
Waitr's new terms go into effect Aug. 1. Any restaurant that does not sign the new contract by July 31 would be removed from the Waitr platform. The change comes just days after Waitr laid off an undisclosed number of employees the company said would streamline redundancies that resulted from the acquisition of Minneapolis-based Bite Squad earlier this year.
On the calendar
Java Mama (8645 Bluebonnet Blvd.) will host a "Babies & Breakfast" social time from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, July 14. The monthly event for parents and their kids ages 2 and under will have a play area for babies and fresh coffee, bagels and yogurt parfaits for adults. Tickets are $8 per adult and $5 per child; free for ages 6 months and under. (225) 246-8864; javamama.com.
Adrian's Restaurant & Bar (18143 Perkins Road) will highlight the wines of Napa Valley's Duckhorn Vineyards during a "Ducktail Hour," from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16. A representative for the winery will explain the different wines available for sample. Tickets are $25 and include samples along with small bites. (225) 778-5119; adriansbyjubans.com.
Central restaurant Girasole (14350 Wax Road) has started a new dinner series focused on the cuisine and wines of different Italian regions. The series starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, with a six-course menu influenced by the Abruzzo region of southern Italy and will feature a wine pairing. The dinner is limited to 60 people. Tickets are $100. (225) 302-5302; girasoleitalian.com.