Grubhub's Free-Lunch Idea Flops: 'I Hate You'

Chaos ensues in NYC as restaurants are overwhelmed by thousands of orders
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2022 7:42 AM CDT
Free Grubhub Lunch in NYC Sounded Cool. Except It Wasn't
This Feb. 20, 2018, file photo shows the Grubhub app on an iPhone in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

(Newser) – Turns out "there's no such thing as a free lunch" is sadly accurate after all, at least for thousands of New Yorkers who recently tried to take advantage of a scrumptious-sounding Grubhub promotion. NPR reports that the food delivery service, after finding out via an internal survey that the majority of New Yorkers have skipped lunch, made quite the offer on Tuesday in all five boroughs of New York City: a $15 credit for a gratis meal between the hours of 11am and 2pm that day. Which sounded great in theory, but ended up being a logistical nightmare, as Grubhub instantly became flooded with orders, overwhelming restaurants and causing the platform to crash. Grubhub spokesperson Christopher Krautler tells the Guardian that at one point, there was an average of 6,000 orders a minute, a flow that "absolutely blew away all expectations."

Krautler concedes some customers got an error code when trying to order, which led to a "delay," but he adds glitches were soon fixed and that 450,000-plus orders were eventually "fulfilled." But many customers say they still couldn't order, waited forever for their order, or never got their orders at all, as restaurants scrambled to keep up with demand. The general manager of one Mexican vegan restaurant in the city's West Village neighborhood called it a "s---show," noting she opened the restaurant that day only to find more than three dozen orders already waiting. A worker at a chicken joint in Brooklyn said that eatery's kitchen turned into a "war zone" as employees tried to stay on top of the orders pouring in.

Delivery drivers, meanwhile, had been offered an incentive by the company during the promotion, and some did make bank, but keeping up for many became impossible. Even drivers in different states were affected, as the New York issue caused the app to crash as far away as California. "No one could anticipate the level of demand, and unfortunately that caused strain on some restaurants," Grubhub said in a statement, per NPR, adding it had notified restaurants ahead of time of the promotion so they could prepare. Many restaurant workers and owners are disputing that, saying they had no idea about the free-lunch deal until they got into work and were bombarded. All of this left a bad taste (or no taste) in many frustrated customers' mouths, per BuzzFeed. "I hate you," wrote one customer on a customer satisfaction survey about the experience. (Read more grubhub stories.)

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