The pandemic hasn’t been kind to the restaurant industry here in Tucson. Restaurants were blindsided with sudden closures and then requirements for reopening the restaurants often changed without warning. This has led to the closure of dozens of restaurants at no fault of their own. Others have done whatever they can to stay afloat, with the majority counting on delivery and take-out orders to help.
As a local restaurant food lover, you’ve likely ordered-in a number of times. You may have even used one of the handful of food-delivery apps that send drivers to restaurants to pick up the food and then deliver it to you. For months this was your only method for supporting local restaurants.
The delivery bills were typically higher than what you would have paid to dine-in at the restaurant, as the delivery services charged third-party fees to pay for the delivery driver’s time as well as take a cut off the top. In many cases, this is to be expected. However, if you live in Tucson you’re probably paying even more for your delivery than anywhere else in the state.
That’s right. If you’ve used the DoorDash delivery app or website as of late and have looked over the final bill, you’ve probably seen something noted as a “Tucson Fee.” Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a specific fee for delivering food in Tucson.
During the early months of the pandemic when DoorDash and other delivery applications truly took off as necessary go-betweens for customers looking to order from traditionally non-delivery restaurants, these applications began charging massive delivery percentages. According to a number of Tucson restaurants, DoorDash and other apps took up to 30 percent of the final cost, leaving the restaurant with next to no profit margin.
In order to help combat the excessive fees, the Tucson City Council passed an ordinance in October capping any kind of app delivery fee at 15 percent. The City Council understood the need to have a fee attached for using the service, but it also wanted to help restaurants hold onto as much of the final sale as possible, especially with full dine-in options limited.
Once all app delivery charges were capped at 15 percent DoorDash decided to add on an additional $2 to every order. This is a specific Tucson fee which it believes is necessary to make up for the lost 15 percent it is no longer able to charge.
However, DoorDash is the only major delivery service that is charging the added “Tucson Fee” for deliveries. The other major app delivery players in the area, including Uber Eats and GrubHub, have capped their surcharge at 15 percent and have not added any additional fees to make up for the City Council mandate.
If you have used DoorDash in the past several months there is a good chance you have paid this additional fee. However, DoorDash did not openly explain what the fee was for. It simply grouped it up with the other service fees on its final cost rundown. The Tucson Fee was added on top of the percentage surcharge, a delivery fee (some restaurants do eat this fee in which case it’s not charged), a processing fee, and so on.
In fact, the fees added on top of your delivery order have dramatically increased the overall cost of your food-eating experience. According to a recent report by The New York Times, ordering food through applications like DoorDash increase your final eating cost by 91%.
So if you are hungry, want to support a local restaurant, and yet save money at the same time, try to take advantage of a pick-up option. More money will go directly into the pocket of the restaurant, which then helps pay its employees and keep more workers on staff. But if you do need to order through an app, consider alternative options besides DoorDash, which looks to continue charging you its $2 Tucson Fee.