Grubhub Snubs Hubbub Over Promo

Thom Weidlich 05.19.22


On Tuesday, food-delivery app Grubhub ran a promotion offering New Yorkers a free lunch, or at least $15 off their orders. Predictably, operational issues arose. The company’s response was along the lines of . . . it’s no biggie. Not good crisis planning or response.

The residents of New York, a rather populous city, could redeem the May 17 offer between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Alas, so many did that Grubhub’s drivers and the restaurants in its network were overwhelmed. Some restaurants had to make deliveries themselves.

Kelsey Weekman did a deep dive in BuzzFeed News. Grubhub told her that at times the promo clocked in 6,000 orders a minute and totaled six times as many as a similar one last year. One customer said he was in 3,639th place in the delivery app’s customer-service queue. A Brooklyn café had to cancel orders after it got 200 in five minutes.

‘Cold Orders’

@rennyconti tweeted at Grubhub: “currently working front of house at a restaurant in brooklyn and you guys big time messed up. we have over 30 cold orders not being picked up by drivers and our phones are off the hook with angry customers.”

Naturally, there were other critics, especially on social media.

“I hope they get blasted for this extremely poorly thought out promo,” a Manhattan resident told BuzzFeed.

“Who could have possibly predicted that Grubhub offering free lunch to the entire city of New York during a specific 3-hour window would be a complete disaster?” business journalist Kevin J. Ryan tweeted.

‘Temporarily Overwhelmed’

For its part, Grubhub was rather sanguine about the situation, a response that didn’t rise to the disaster. The company merely said that “initial demand temporarily overwhelmed” the app, according to BuzzFeed. It tried to be cute on social media. “New Yorkers went as hard for free lunch as the Rangers did in game 7,” it tweeted at 2:07 p.m. “Our restaurants and drivers are still working hard fulfilling your orders. Make sure to show them love today (and every day).”

At 10:50 p.m., it somewhat defensively tweeted, thanking its drivers for their “incredible work.” It also said it had given the restaurants notice about the promo, which some denied, though it did announce it May 11.

Still, it was a strange effort given restaurant staffing is so tight and workers are already, well, overworked. It does feel like Grubhub didn’t think through the operational issues — that everyone could predict the problems but the promoter. It’s Crisis Communications 101: Think ahead.

Photo Credit: Grubhub

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