Uber Eats fails to pay desperate Cape Town restaurant owner for months

Wendy Knowler Consumer journalist
Cape Town restaurateur urges Uber Eats to drop its 30% service fee to “at most 20%” during the lockdown restrictions to help ailing restaurants survive.
Cape Town restaurateur urges Uber Eats to drop its 30% service fee to “at most 20%” during the lockdown restrictions to help ailing restaurants survive.
Image: Reuters

A Facebook plea by the owner of a well-known Thai restaurant in Cape Town has helped break the deadlock he had in getting Uber Eats to pay him the more than R100,000 the international delivery platform has owed him for months.

“I have tried to call their call centre in India. I have emailed their head office in Canada. They keep making promises but doing nothing,” Nirun Kotkong of Yindees Thai Restaurant, which has been operating from its corner site in Kloof Street since 1994, wrote on Sunday night.

“It has been four months since I have been paid. I will be forced to close my restaurant, which I have given the past 25 years of my life to, if they do not pay me soon.”

Kotkong told SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE he’d signed up for Uber Eats’ delivery service in March. He received payment for his first batch of deliveries, but nothing more for Uber Eats orders he’d fulfilled from March 13 until he closed his restaurant on March 23 - the day President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the national lockdown - “and not another cent for orders since we reopened for deliveries in May”.

“We keep following up, via the Uber Eats app, e-mail, phone - always it’s overseas people who answer, and they say they have no people in South Africa for me to speak to,” said Kotkong.

Despite not being paid, he continued to fulfil the orders customers placed via Uber Eats.

“But now I’m having to borrow money to stay open,” he said on Monday. “It’s very bad.”

Uber Eats South Africa has since reached out to Kotkong and offered to pay him in full for the orders - about R150,000, waiving its usual 30% (excl VAT) service fee.

“We can see the owner was engaging with our global support team and there was a delay in our local team responding correctly to his questions,” said Uber Eats.

“For this we are very sorry and we have spoken directly with the owner on how we can make up for this error.

“We kindly remind all our restaurant partners to use the these support channels for any questions they might have: Uber Eats in-app help, desktop or direct e-mail, and to make sure all their business details are loaded correctly onto the Uber Eats platform."

Kotkong said he’d clearly supplied his bank account details correctly, given that Uber Eats made an initial payment in March.

On the issue of Uber Eats' offer to waive its service fee on the amount owing to him, he said he would prefer the company to deduct its normal fee and instead drop its 30% service fee to “at most 20%” during this time, to help all ailing restaurants survive.

Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) CEO Wendy Alberts said when extras such as VAT and a marketing fee were added, the service fee being deducted from restaurant orders by Uber Eats was more like 40%.

“They are not doing right by us in these desperate times,” she said.

An Uber Eats spokesperson said the company was not considering lowering its service fee as it was required to sustain its operations “and ensure that we can provide a stable platform connecting restaurants to a safe and reliable source of delivery people who bring orders to customers in under 30 minutes”.

“In order to sustainably support our partners in this evolving crisis, we considered a number of options, and decided to focus on driving demand,” she said.

She said this includes:

  • a daily pay-out feature (vs weekly) to help restaurant cash flows;
  • investing in marketing efforts to support local restaurants and small businesses - including waiving the delivery fee in May, and through other various promos in the last few months;
  • waiving activation fees for new restaurants and making it quicker and easier for them to join Uber Eats; and
  • waiving commissions on all pickup orders facilitated by Eats (0% on pickup).

Delivery platform Mr D currently charges restaurants a service fee of 19.5% (excl VAT).


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