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What’s it like delivering for Grubhub?

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I was waiting at a sandwich shop for food and chatting with another driver. At the time, I had been delivering Uber Eats for about a week and a half or so.

He mentioned he'd been making about $1300 a week with Grubhub.

No way.

He showed me his earnings reports.

Way.

Of course, he said he'd been putting in close to 70 hours a week, but still…. $1300???

I wasn't planning on any 70 hour weeks, but still, guess who was giving Grubhub a try?

What is it like delivering for Grubhub?
What is it like delivering for Grubhub?

What's it like delivering for Grubhub? (and Uber Eats, Doordash, maybe Postmates)

This is the second part of a series I'm doing on what it's like to deliver for each of the food delivery apps. Last week we talked about Uber Eats. This week, we'll get into Grubhub and next week Doordash. The jury is out on if I'll do Postmates – I haven't delivered for them for such a long time that I sat out too long. I can't log in. And I'm not in a hurry really to get back in until they fix some things.

Last fall I did a similar series, but it was more taking a big picture look at each of the companies. It was really meant more as a comparison. This time around, I just wanted to dive into the experience itself. It's not really meant to make comparisons, though I'm sure comparisons will come from time to time.

What's it like getting started delivering for Grubhub?

When I started with Uber Eats, it was as simple as getting an email that my background check was approved, go ahead and log in. That was it.

Grubhub is different than everyone else, especially two and a half years ago. At the time they were king of the mountain.Everyone else was begging for Drivers, Grubhub was putting people on a wait list. February was a busy enough time that I was able to get on right away, but they were the go to for delivery companies.

Getting started delivering for Grubhub was very different than Uber Eats. I had to go into the office and pick up my stuff. They had bags and a shirt and a hat, and a quick overview of how it works.

That part impressed me. Not so much the apparel as much as the fact there was an office. There was a driver specialist. Real people were involved.

I get the impression they're really trying to scale back the driver specialist's involvement with drivers. Real people cost money. You can't just drop in at the office these days like you could a couple years ago. That said, that's still one big difference that stood out from the get go to me.

Picking times to deliver

Here's another thing that was very different about Grubhub.

They use schedules. Prior to the week of delivery, the schedule will open up and you can pick blocks of time that you plan to deliver. Depending on how busy your market is, you may have to do your scheduling early, or you may be able to pick up blocks on the fly.

You don't have to be scheduled to deliver. You can just go available. This too depends on how busy things are. If things are really busy, you can get a lot of good deliveries even if you aren't scheduled. When things are slower, priority is given to drivers who are on schedule.

The schedule piece is one of the things I like the least about delivering for Grubhub. I choose the independent contractor life for the flexibility, but committing to a schedule kind of flies against that. To be fair, you don't have to totally commit. You can drop scheduled blocks. But there are issues around it. We'll get into this a bit more in a bit.

When I started, most available blocks were 2 hours in length. Along the way they changed it to one hour blocks. Some markets have different lengths of time.

Either way, you can schedule ahead of time or you can take your chances and pick up a block on the fly, or even more take your chances on trying to get orders without a block.

You click on “go available” in the app, and away you go!

And now you're ready to go.

In the past, being on a block has usually meant offers were coming in right away. I have noticed more times lately where there are longer pauses, and I don't know if that's because they are getting slower or if they're punishing me for rejecting offers.

With all of these apps it's pretty much the same thing: You get an offer with the details and you can choose to accept or reject.

Grubhub is like everyone else: You get an offer pop up with a map and some information.

A typical Grubhub delivery offer
A typical Grubhub delivery offer

Grubhub's information is really pretty basic.

You have the map, the price, and the restaurant and not a lot of other information.

The one thing about the price that Grubhub offers, you pretty much know what you're going to get. This includes the tip, and they don't play the Doordash game of dangling the possibility that your total amount could be higher.

Unlike Doordash and Uber Eats, you don't get any information about how far you'll be going. While I like that feature on those apps, that never really bothered me. I know the area well enough to know how far I'm going.

That is, as long as I can SEE where I'm going. The color of the icon blends in sometimes with the background, so you have to do some searching. Sometimes the icon will be almost completely off the map.

What offers should you accept?

The good news with Grubhub is, you know what you're going to get. You also know that, other than the extremely rare cash tip, you're not getting more than what they're offering.

In a lot of ways that makes it easier to decide.

Lately I've been using a 50 cent rule: The delivery has to pay more than 50 cents a minute for me to take it. (I've written about the 40 cent rule before, but I've upped my price lately – I can do that as an independent contractor.)

Obviously, you can accept or reject anything you want to. A lot of people will decide solely based on the price. Others will just take everything. I'm not sure any one is smarter than the other. But that's my opinion.

With Grubhub, the 50 cent rule is extremely, extremely simple. Double the price, and that gives you the amount of time you should be able to deliver in.

In the offer above, it's $8.00. That means I should be able to do that in 16 minutes. If I can't do that, I'm not taking it.

If I can get a $5 delivery done in ten minutes, I'll take it. However, if I can't get a $15 delivery done in 30 minutes, I'll pass. It's simple as that.

Do you have to accept all orders?

As an independent contractor, there's no requirement to accept all or even most delivery offers. You make your own decisions.

You have more time with Grubhub than anyone else to make a decision.

The thing with Grubhub is, there's no reason to make a quick decision. What I mean is, with some other apps, if you decide quickly, you can get another order quickly.

Grubhub has this thing where they're sending orders out every two minutes. Even if it takes awhile to decide, it really doesn't matter that much. It's still going to be two minutes before the next offer comes.

This is something to consider though: Say you turn down ten orders in a row. That's 20 minutes that you are sitting idle. That's not to say you should be taking those offers, but it is saying you want to consider if waiting 20 minutes is the best strategy.

If you decline, you have to give a reason why.

I always thought this was asinine. Doordash does it too.

I used to worry about whether I'm putting the right answer down. You have several choices: I'm too busy. Distance is too far. Total value is too low. In the end, I don't think it really matters – half the time I just hit something.

But here's the bottom line for me. It's almost always this: Total value is too low. I've smiled to myself when choosing that reason declining a $20 offer, I kinda get a kick out of that. Especially when I take the $6 offer that comes immediately after. In my mind though, total value is exactly what it says:

TOTAL value. Distance, time, what it pays. If it doesn't add up, it doesn't add up.

What are the deliveries themselves like on Grubhub?

Once you've accepted an offer, you do get more information from Grubhub than what you do with Uber Eats.

You can now find things like what time the order is supposed to be ready by. You can also tap on customer information and see details of where you're going. Usually you can see when the order was placed and when the original ETA for the order was.

And you can see the tip amount.

Sometimes Grubhub won't display some of that information. I've had where they won't show the customer information at all until you've picked up the food. They'll sometimes hide the ETA information. Sometimes they hide the tip amount.

This is good information helping you figure out what's going on.

Picking up from the restaurant

I mentioned this about Uber Eats, for the most part there's not much difference in this part from one app to the next. More and more restaurants are going on all delivery platforms. So much of this depends on the restaurant.

There's one thing that seems a bigger issue with Grubhub deliveries though, and that's the amount of time you can end up waiting. Grubhub is notorious for sending us the delivery at the same time that they send it to the restaurant.

Another thing that can add long wait times at the restaurant is if you get one of those where you have to place the order. My experience is that Grubhub is offering that far more than Doordash lately. Uber Eats was rolling out that feature but at least in my market never really got it off the ground.

I find that fascinating.

There's an interesting dynamic around the whole wait time thing, the response by drivers, and then Grubhub's responses. I'll get into that in a bit.

Delivering to the customer.

Compared to Uber Eats and Doordash, the delivery part when doing Grubhub is probably more pressure free than any of them.

There's no rating system.

The customer tips through the app when placing the order. So there's no pressure that you have to do things just so.

You drop off the food and you're done.

I like that, but I'm a little uneasy with it. Maybe that's just a perception thing for me, but there's no reward for good service and no consequence for bad service. I get the feeling that the lack of consequence plays itself out in a bigger way on Grubhub.

I'm seeing most deliveries during the pandemic are no-contact. That's been kind of a relief. For whatever reason, it's seemed harder to actually get to the customer with Grubhub. Is that another perception thing?

But again, this is where there's less pressure but less accountability. You leave the food and all you're required to do is text the customer. No picture, just leave it and go. It's easier, faster, but how often is that abused by drivers?

What about the next delivery?

When I figured out I didn't need to take every. single. delivery., that led to a bit of a dilemma for me. This goes back to the two minute cycle between delivery offers with Grubhub.

Say I drop off an order. Now it's a matter of waiting up to two minutes for the next offer. And of course, if I turn that down, it's waiting another two minutes. It could be six to ten minutes before I'm on my way.

About a year, maybe year and a half ago, Grubhub finally started sending their ‘next offer' BEFORE you complete the delivery. So a lot of times I already knew where I was going next by the time I dropped off. This really cut down on the downtime.

The thing with Grubhub is, they can be HORRIBLE at the kind of offers they throw at you. Several offers in a row are seven miles to the restaurant. But the flip side is, you can also get into an amazing groove with them. You take an offer, and as you're ready to drop off another one comes in that is perfect. And it's like, you get in that groove and next thing you know, it's like ten, twelve, fifteen offers in a row are all great. You're almost afraid of turning something down because it could take you out of that groove.

So as frustrating as it can be, I find more with Grubhub than anyone else where you just seem to hit this sweetspot and ride it for all it's worth. I think that's one of the reasons that for so long they were my prime money maker.

Getting paid.

I mentioned this before, but one thing I like about Grubhub is, you get an offer, you know exactly what you're getting. There's no guessing.

Maybe, maybe there's a cash tip – for me that's incredibly rare because generally, if there is no tip through the app, the order isn't paying enough for me to accept it. So because of that I probably have a lower percentage of cash tips than someone who is going for their 95% acceptance rate.

It used to be a pretty straight forward pay model, and not a bad one at that. $3.50 plus 50 cents per straight line mile from restaurant to customer. That was in my market – other markets had a variation but same basic concept.

The first part of last year, they changed to a less transparent formula. Supposedly it's based on estimated total minutes and estimated total miles. It's something like 13 cents a minute and 23 cents a mile. In the pay summary it will break down how many miles, but they never say how many minutes you are paid for.

During the pandemic, I noticed that $9 was the lowest that was being offered. I had some zero tip orders where it was $9 total. Grubhub NEVER pays that much for just the delivery fee, so you knew they were subsidizing lower tip deliveries. Lately in my market they dropped the minimum to $8, and I've heard some that are getting back down to much smaller amounts.

How does the pay stack up?

The first thing I'll say is that Grubhub is still the king when it comes to customer tips. They just do a fantastic job of encouraging their customers to tip. None of the others come close.

Here's one thing I wonder though. Are they really that much better at encouraging tips? Or am I just that selective that I only see the better tip orders? Maybe it's a bit of both. That said, since I go by my 50 cent rule, I will take a short and very fast low pay offer, which is very different than a lot of people.

When it comes to what Grubhub pays themself out of their own pocket, they're kind of battling it out with Doordash for last place. Whatever formula they use doesn't compensate you well at all for the extra time that goes with longer deliveries.

And Grubhub LOVES their long deliveries. I think they see it that if they don't put any boundaries, that leaves more options for customers. And hey, they don't have to pay a whole lot more if you drive further, so why not, right?

On normal rates, I think they pay better than Doordash. But Grubhub is not as prone to offer extras or incentives when things are busy, so when Doordash has peak pay, they suddenly get a lot more attractive that Grubhub.

That said, I have to give Grubhub credit for stepping up their game with the $9 and $8 minimums. That was a big departure for them.

The Cat and Mouse game between Grubhub and drivers

In 2018, 64% of my delivery revenue came from Grubhub. In 2019 it grew to 76%.

This year it's been 40%. Since March it's been 33%.

Why the big drop off?

Someone else caught up, and they were easier to deliver for. Uber Eats made some dramatic improvements that make it easier to make decisions on deliveries. Add that to the tips, and I can make as much or more with them.

And there's a lot less pressure.

I took a challenge in March to see what I could earn if I shifted my focus to Uber Eats. I was blown away how much I was making.

And I felt so much better while doing deliveries. I don't think I realized how much pressure there is with Grubhub and the games they played, until I got out from under it. I just enjoyed my deliveries more under Uber Eats.

Grubhub and their control games

With Grubhub, it starts with their scheduling block system.

One thing I didn't touch on earlier was their Premier, Pro and Partner program levels. It can be a big things with drivers, but not really part of my experience. I ignore it.

With the program levels, you get earlier access to schedules if you maintain a higher acceptance rate. You also have to stick more closely to the schedule you set up to maintain those levels. That doesn't fit in with how I operate, so I don't pay attention to program level.

That said, I hated Saturday mornings. That was when scheduling was made available for those of us lower level drivers. I would log in at exactly 10:45 AM on Saturday and grab all te schedule blocks I could that were still available.

I haven't done that since March and I've never felt so free.

All the unwritten rules.

Late in 2018 I received an email. My scheduling ability was taken away. No explanation was given. “We noticed something odd and are reviewing your account. For the time being, you will keep any currently scheduled blocks but you do not have access to schedule new blocks”

I got in to see the driver specialist (which isn't as easy to do today, by the way). He looked it up – the reason he found was I went unavailable more than 15 minutes before my block was over.

Where is that written down? I've heard from a number of drivers who were given all sorts of reasons for losing schedule access. They dropped too many schedule blocks o they didn't accept enough orders or whatever. All of these are things that never are written down.

And they never put it in writing.

And this is maybe the most negative thing for me when it comes to Grubhub. They more than any of the others still try to control what you do. But they also know they're not allowed to control the work of independent contractors, so they do it stealthily. A lot of verbal things but never in writing.

The example of a delivery I took Saturday.

I mentioned above all that Grubhub has been struggling with trying to get drivers to get right to the restaurant. They've been pushing drivers to go directly to the restaurant. They even started cancelling deliveries on a driver if they didn't arrive on time.

I get it on the one hand. They need to fill their orders. There are too many drivers who are way too late. Some are late because they're working multiple apps. Grubhub has to do something, right?

I don't think they realize that they're more of the cause of the problem than they realize.

I had one order come in and I was right by the restaurant. It fit my 50 cent rule, so I took it, but I had reservations on if it would be ready. I checked the arrival time and the time the order was placed and just as I suspected, I received the offer immediately. I probably had it before the restaurant did.

I'm not waiting at the restaurant 20 minutes. I was just going to cancel it, but then decided to shoot for a short quick delivery on Uber Eats. Right after that, an offer came in from another restaurant that lined up perfectly. By the time I picked up that food and returned to the restaurant for the Grubhub order, THAT order was just coming out. The Uber Eats customer was right on the way to my delivery for Grubhub.

As a side note – at the restaurant I was picking up from for Uber Eats? There was a Grubhub driver waiting there for his order – he had been waiting 20 minutes already. Same restaurant: Uber Eats got me there when the food was ready.

If Grubhub fixed themselves, they'd fix a lot of their driver problems.

Grubhub has had a problem for a long time. They can't get their orders filled. Drivers won't accept lower paying offers. Drivers are late.

Grubhub's response is to try everything they can get by with to force drivers to do what needs to be done.

But Grubhub isn't addressing their own problems.

Dispatching is horribly inefficient. Putting drivers in a spot where they have to wait for the food for fifteen, twenty, forty five minutes is inexcusable. They don't pay for the extra wait time.

Their position is, if you accept an order, you're entering into a contract to deliver it.

That's a fair position.

But there's another side to it. If they make an offer, there's a reasonable assumption that you can complete the offer in a reasonable amount of time. Failure to disclose factors that would make the delivery take longer than normal is a breach of its own.

If you want me to not take another delivery, and if you want me to head right to the restaurant, then you damn well better have that food ready when I get there. That's a fair expectation.

If you want me to take more orders, quit offering me deliveries from restaurants seven miles away when the restaurant across the street has orders waiting for drivers. Dispatch better and you'll fix a lot of your problems.

Final thoughts on what it's like to deliver for Grubhub.

Here's the thing: When things are going well, Grubhub can pay really, really well. Their customers tip well. Their app works (we're talking about Doordash next week – THERE's a contrast). For the longest time, Grubhub was the king.

Grubhub is struggling. They've plummeted in market share. Restaurant owners I talk to like them the least.

Some of it is their shadiness with how they worked with restaurants. Some of it is the shadiness with how they try to control contractors, whom they are not allowed to control.

I LOVED Grubhub when I first started delivering because they were the ones that paid well enough that I realized, hey, this could be pretty good money.

And when I get into a groove with them on deliveries, they're feeding you orders, no one can touch them.

But there are issues. To me, it's a cultural thing that goes back to the bravado that thinks they're untouchable. When there's a problem, it's not them, it has to be us. That wears on you after awhile.

I deliver less for Grubhub than ever before.

That said, I think you should get on with them if you can. There's just too much potential, too much upside to pass on it. There's no referral link for them, I can't make any money off that recommendation. But I just don't think your delivery arsenal is complete without signing on with them.

Could this help someone else? Please share it.

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