Digital Dining: Putting food apps to the test

Find out which of these apps offers the best deal

Digital Dining: Putting food apps to the test

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - It’s a process so simple and it starts at your fingertips.

Delivery apps make ordering from your favorite restaurants easier than ever.

But what are you really paying for that convenience?

Delivery apps can turn a night in into a night out without having to snag a reservation, find a parking spot or hire a sitter. But the cost of all this convenience depends on which app does the delivering.

We compared prices on orders from four different apps to see if any of them offers the best deal. More than 250 restaurants are accessible through Uber Eats, Bite Squad, GrubHub and DoorDash.

We chose our delivery from Mulan Asian Bistro in Midtown Memphis.

The Combination Seafood entree cost $18.95, with tax $20.89, and with a delivery fee $22.89. Bite Squad charged us $26.19 at checkout. The app tacked on $3.25 in sales tax and “other taxes and fees” plus a $3.99 booking fee.

GrubHub’s total came to $26.16, three cents cheaper than BiteSquad despite a $5 delivery fee.

Our DoorDash order rang up $24.59 - that’s with $3.65 in taxes and fees and $1.99 delivery fee.

The best deal came from Uber Eats at $24.19, with the tax there only $1.75 and the booking fee $3.49.

On this one order, the final cost of delivery without factoring in a tip varied by as much as $2.

"Our delivery fees range depending on how we work with the restaurants,” said Natalie Gerke with Grubhub.

We asked representatives from each of the apps we tried about pricing, fees, and incentives for ordering.

In an email, Uber Eats told us booking fees vary on several factors like distance from the restaurant.

"We are working with the restaurants to provide the lowest fees as possible,” said Brent Seals with DoorDash. “In working with them, we often times will have decided that this is the fee that we're going to charge in order to cover DoorDash's expenses and make sure that we can still provide a good service."

“We have a small booking fee and it’s usually between $2-$3,” said Craig Key with Bite Squad. “If it’s a longer order maybe it’d be a couple dollars more than that and that’s our pay to take care of the service and take care of our customers and then our drivers are servers.”

“Some restaurants have their own delivery fees so they set their own prices, delivery fee prices,” Gerke said. “We also have our Grubhub delivery fee, you know, if a restaurant doesn’t have delivery capabilities we can leverage our fees instead."

When thumbing around for the lowest delivery price, pay attention to menu markups as well.

The Vanilla Sky sandwich at Front Street Deli costs $8.39 on three of the four apps we checked. But on Uber Eats, the price was a dollar more at $9.39.

We found another Uber Eats up-charge on the House Tuna Melt from City Market in Midtown. Neither restaurant weighed in on the price hike by our deadline.

Uber Eats said meal prices are set by restaurants according to their own menus.

The other apps said menu price changes are rare.

"Typically those prices are the same, however, it’s up to the restaurant if they want to bring a slightly different price,” Gerke said.

"You’ll typically see we try to have the same prices on DoorDash as there are in store,” Seals said.

"We don’t allow restaurants to have a higher price for an item on our platform versus what you’d pay in store,” Key said.

Analysis conducted by Lux Research in 2017 shows consumers are willing to pay an average of 11 percent more for the convenience of restaurant take-out and online grocery delivery.

Knowing which apps deliver that convenience at the best price is icing on the cake.

We also discovered hidden deals on some of the apps where customers can pay a flat delivery rate once a month at a fraction of the fees for each order.

Here's a breakdown of the best deals we discovered starting with DoorDash. New customers get their first delivery free, and if DoorDash is new to the market, delivery fees for the first month are only a dollar for all orders over $15.

There's more.

“For $9.99 a month you can get unlimited DoorDash orders with no delivery fee as long as your order is over $15 so it’s a really great way to save some money,” Seals said. “The average Dash Pass subscriber saves $20 a month.”

BiteSquad delivers from more than 250 Mid-South restaurants.

“One of the best things about Bite Squad is our unlimited program,” Key said. “When a customer is checking out they will often see an option to sign up for our Bite Squad unlimited, which actually removes that booking fee so the customer would then get free delivery for a small monthly fee.”

That monthly fee equals about the amount you’d spend on two to three orders a month, so if you order frequently, BiteSquad says the monthly membership is the way to go.

Grubhub delivers from fewer restaurants than BiteSquad but offers an express re-order option that makes ordering your favorites a little easier.

Grubhub also lets you split the check.

“We also have an integration with Venmo, which makes group ordering a lot easier so you’re not stuck with the bill,” Gerke said. “You can split the bill as you need to.”

Uber Eats offers a sliding scale delivery fee so the closer you are to a restaurant, the more likely you are to find the best delivery deal.

Uber Eats also lets customers set a cap on booking fees, filtering out restaurants that don’t meet your budget.

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