RAVENSWOOD — A Ravenswood woman is trying to make it easier for neighbors to order food from their favorite local restaurants without using third-party apps that cut into business profits.
Noelle Harrison, who moved to the area earlier this month, saw a post on the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook group asking for recommendations for local restaurants and reminding supporters about the importance of ordering directly from a restaurant, she said.
That inspired Harrison to research local businesses and compile a spreadsheet with contact information for more than 30 restaurants in and around Ravenswood. She intended the list to be just for her and her husband, but decided to share it with the Facebook group. Neighbors have been enthusiastically sharing Harrison’s one-stop-shop list to order everything from Chinese food to pizza and sushi.
Harrison lived in San Francisco for 20 years and said it was almost impossible to avoid using third-party apps there.
“I wanted to engage with folks that are not only probably still struggling from the pandemic but are actively hiring folks from the community,” Harrison said. “I made the list kind of on a lark of my own Lisa Simpson-esque desire to please the community and be a good citizen.”
Restauranteurs throughout the city have urged people to order directly from them. Business owners have said apps like GrubHub and Uber Eats have fees or take significant percentages of what customers pay, taking critical revenue during a time when restaurants have struggled. Other restaurants have launched in-house delivery to avoid the fees.
The city implemented a measure requiring third-party apps to disclose what they charged restaurants in service and delivery fees, then another capping those fees at 15 percent. That fee limit expired in October, and those costs are creeping up again, some restaurant owners said.
The list Harrison created shows restaurant owners that neighbors are willing to forego the convenience of those apps to directly support local businesses, said chamber Associate Director Gene Wagendorf III.
“It’s important for our restaurants and businesses to know that there is an appetite out there from neighbors,” Wagendorf III said. “We talked about that list with a handful of business owners recently, and some of them still don’t do delivery. But if they were going to start, that’s the kind of feedback they need to hear.”
Lucia Herrejon, co-owner of XOchimilco Mexican Restaurant at 2030 W. Montrose Ave., is among the eateries on Harrison’s list. The family-run restaurant has been open for three and a half years. When the pandemic hit Chicago, the owners started relying heavily on business from third-party delivery apps, Herrejon said.
But with most of those apps taking a 30 percent cut from each sale, the long-term health of the business was being put at risk, Herrejon said.
Herrejon’s husband was scrolling on his phone when he came across Harrison’s list, and it led to a conversation where they decided they should cut out the middle man and explain to customers the importance of ordering from them directly, she said.
“It’s such a large cut, and in order to stay in business we decided two weeks ago that we would cut off all third-party delivery companies,” Herrejon said. “We’re still struggling to find supplies, and prices are increasing for everything. It didn’t make sense to continue to give such a high percentage to a third party when we’re still struggling to make it through day by day.”
Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe, which moved from Lincoln Avenue to 2434 W. Montrose Ave. this year, also is on Harrison’s list.
Owner Jimmy Kang has been outspoken about skipping delivery apps and said he appreciates customers heeding warnings about how it affects local businesses. Kang said he’s negotiated a better percentage with third-party delivery apps, but he recognizes not all restaurant owners have that ability.
“I feel like it’s huge that people are more informed now and know the impact of third-party apps, how much they take,” he said. “I think it’s really great that [Harrison] is really thinking about that and trying to make a difference.”
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