Generally speaking, restaurant phone numbers you find on Yelp are the entity’s actual, real-world phone number. But there’s also a way to dial the wrong number for a restaurant, which connects you through Grubhub and allows the company to claim referral fee for anything you might then order.
You’ll find this confusing setup when you pull up a particular restaurant on Yelp and tap the “Call” section on the restaurant’s page. Normally, this connects you right to the restaurant. However, if you get a pop-up that asks you whether you want to call the restaurant for “Delivery or Takeout” or “General Questions,” the confusion begins.
Screenshot: David Murphy
As Vice reports, each “call” button you can tap is actually a different number, a fact you can check yourself if you tap each and look at what you’re about to dial. The entry for “Delivery or Takeout” is a Grubhub-owned number, which ultimately redirects you to the restaurant in question. The “General Questions” number will take you to the actual restaurant—and, yes, you’ll still be able to place an order. You won’t be limited to questions.
One of these things is not like the other.
Screenshot: David Murphy
Why the confusion? Because when you go through the Grubhub “Delivery or Takeout” option, Grubhub can then claim the referral and take a “marketing cut” based on your order. Are they doing any actual work? No. They just own the phone number that’s routing you to the restaurant in question. It’s a scam—one that affects your favorite restaurant more than you, since they’ll be the ones giving the cut to Yelp partner Grubhub.
Here’s what a Grubhub spokesperson had to say about the setup, when asked by Vice to explain what was happening:
“It is important to keep in mind that we are a marketing platform and, in almost all of these cases, the diner would not have discovered or placed an order with this restaurant without our platform. The order is the result of our marketing efforts.”
Right. Grubhub isn’t even taking a commission based on a percentage of the actual phone order itself. All it can do is scan the calls to determine whether an order was placed; it then takes a commission based on the average of a restaurant’s “last six non-phone orders,” Vice describes.
Does this sound like a mess? Absolutely. If you want to make sure you’re giving your favorite restaurant your full financial support, make sure you’re calling them directly. And if you’re not sure, have then confirm their phone number with you. If that’s not what you dialed, hang up and try them directly—not directly vis-à-vis Grubhub.
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