Meal-Delivery Company GrubHub is Buying Thousands of Restaurant Web Addresses, Preventing Mom and Pop From Owning Their Slice of Internet

H. Claire Brown, reporting for The New Food Economy: GrubHub’s commission fees had been inching upward over the years she’d [anecdote in the story] been working with the platform. There was the flat transaction fee, which hovered around 3 or 4 percent. Then there were marketing fees and costs for additional promotions. Shivane says she feels like the platform is increasingly pay to play: Spend more to promote your restaurant, and see your search rankings rise. Cut down on marketing spend, and watch your restaurant fall to the bottom of the page and lose sales.

“It’s putting us in a financial hole. Last month, I paid $7,000 to GrubHub. That’s my rent for the month,” Shivane says. The New Food Economy viewed the company’s invoice to Shivane’s restaurant — it was actually $8,000. We agreed to use only her first name and last initial in this story because she still uses the platform and fears the company could retaliate by dropping her restaurant to the bottom of its search rankings. Frustrated, Shivane started exploring other options. She says she thought about bulking up her restaurant’s web presence and offering orders on her own site through a different service, one that offered a flat monthly rate and no commission fee.

There was just one problem: Someone already owned the web domain that matched her restaurant’s name. She looked up the buyer. It was GrubHub. The New Food Economy has found that GrubHub owns more than 23,000 web domains. Its subsidiary, Seamless, owns thousands. We’ve published the full list here. Most of them appear to correlate with the names of real restaurants. The company’s most recent purchase was in May of this year. Grubhub purchased three different domains containing versions of Shivane’s restaurant’s name — in 2012, 2013, and 2014. “I never gave them permission to do that,” she says.

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