Bluffton restaurant says ‘no’ to DoorDash orders. Here’s why

DoorDash ads promise that you can place a food order and soon be enjoying your favorite dishes from local restaurants, without traveling farther than your front door.

Some Beaufort County restaurant owners, though, are warning diners that the food delivered may not represent the best their restaurants have to offer.

Star Wozniak, owner of Squat ‘N’ Gobble on May River Road in Bluffton, said she had her menu removed from DoorDash’s website last week because of a multitude of problems with the service.

“We were getting up to probably 10 orders a week from DoorDash, and every time there was some issue,” she said.

Wozniak said delivery times and conditions are out of the restaurant’s control, and that may mean food sits out too long and becomes unsafe.

A recent order of shrimp and grits was not picked up for more than two hours after it was ordered, she explained. When the driver arrived, she felt compelled to remake the order at her own expense.

“The restaurants are held accountable for things not delivered on time,” she said. “I apologize profusely, but I’m apologizing for a mistake I did not make.”

In an emailed response, a DoorDash spokesperson said Friday: “We are committed to providing the best experience on our platform and are constantly listening to merchants to continuously improve and evolve. We regret that this incident fell short of the experience we strive to give our merchants and customers every day. We reached out to Squat N Gobble immediately after being notified of this event to rectify the situation and take appropriate action. As soon as we received their request, we removed Squat N Gobble from the DoorDash platform.”

Leah McCarthy, owner of Downtown Deli on May River Road, said she’s had experience with DoorDash as an at-home diner and through her business.

“I really prefer our customers don’t use them because we want our customers to have a great experience,” McCarthy said.

She said one recent order was sent to an address in Beaufort instead of Bluffton. In another case, a group of teachers placed an order through the service, but it was delivered to the wrong school.

“They were upset with us,” McCarthy said.

She praised the convenience of DoorDash but worries that inaccurate orders and incorrect deliveries will leave people with a poor impression of her restaurant.

Diner experiences

Those worries were echoed by David Palaces, director of operations for The Cottage on Calhoun Street in Old Town.

He characterized his restaurant’s experience with DoorDash as “not terrible but not great.”

Palaces said The Cottage gets only about five orders a week through the service, and his main issue is the way orders are placed through an overseas call center and filter down to drivers, known by the company as “Dashers.“

“There’s definitely some communication gaps,” he said. “It’s an imperfect business.”

Local restaurant owners and managers said DoorDash does not have a contract or other prior agreement with the restaurants before publishing their menus online. As a result, details about menu items or prices may be incorrect on DoorDash’s site.

Pricing issues

Incorrect prices are a big issue for Louie Barone, manager at Hilton Head Diner, located along U.S. 278 on Hilton Head Island.

He said he sees up to 10 orders through DoorDash some nights, and he’s happy to have the extra business, especially in the off-season.

However, when DoorDash prices don’t line up with what the restaurant actually charges, the driver may be delayed working out the difference with the company, and that could delay meals or result in food being “ice cold” before it gets to its destination.

One recent order totaled $65, but DoorDash had charged the customer only $44, Barone said.

Getting into plantations can be an issue as well, he explained.

All of the restaurant owners who spoke to The Island Packet praised local Dashers. Squat ‘N’ Gobble’s Wozniak called the DoorDash drivers polite and professional, in spite of her overall negative experience with the company.

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Lisa Wilson is a reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. The 25-year newsroom veteran has worked for papers in Louisiana and Mississippi and is happy to call the Lowcountry home.