Business & Real Estate

Sampling: Postmates could work for ribs, not so much for sushi, some baked goods

Danny Turner marks the display windows at Pushkin’s Bakery in Sacramento.
Danny Turner marks the display windows at Pushkin’s Bakery in Sacramento. Sacramento Bee file

Some restaurant owners hate it, others are indifferent. Either way, Postmates, a 24/7 delivery app and website, plans to continue planting roots in Sacramento. While many customers have expressed satisfaction via social media since its August launch, some restaurants fear the service’s long-term effects. Many said they have asked to be removed from its listings, requests which Postmates declined. But some eatery owners are waiting to see whether the service will undermine or bolster sales.

“I really like the idea of Postmates,” said Pushkin’s Bakery co-owner Danny Turner. “The problem is a lot of control gets taken out of my hand as a business owner.”

Here’s a sampling of responses from Turner and other owners of some of Sacramento’s most popular eateries who have found their menu items on Postmates.

Sandra Dee’s BBQ: Short-term boost, long-term “wait and see”

Sandra Dee’s Bar-B-Que & Seafood co-owner Jeff Johnson responded with little apprehension to Postmates’ arrival, despite the restaurant’s unsolicited listing on the site. In the first week, the business saw about five orders placed through Postmates.

“In my opinion, it might bring in a new dine-in demographic who haven’t tried us or come into the shop,” said Johnson. “I’m not too concerned about doing business with them because, in the end, we make all the money on the orders. Unlike other delivery services, they don’t take a percentage of the order.”

Johnson has considered possible implications of the service, but feels it’s too soon to tell its long-term effects. “I will be interested to see if it helps or hurts us in the future,” he said.

Fish Face and Kru: Safety, quality questions for raw fish

When Billy Ngo, chef and co-owner of Fish Face and Kru, discovered his restaurants listed on Postmates, he immediately asked that Kru be removed. Kru – which serves small, delicate plates of sushi, nigiri, and sashimi – isn’t fit for to-go orders, said Ngo. The company fears orders made via Postmates may be mishandled, deteriorating the food’s quality and appearance.

Despite not protesting Fish Face’s listing on Postmates, Ngo questions the safety of a third party transporting raw fish to customers.

“We have to consider that drivers don’t have refrigeration, and they are delivering raw fish on hot days and making other stops along the way,” said Ngo. “What if people get sick, then who gets blamed?” Postmates said all drivers carry temperature regulating bags.

Kru’s dine-in experience maintains precedence over to-go orders, which the restaurant reserves the right to turn away. Ngo realizes this may come as a disappointment to Postmates’ customers, potentially resulting in negative online reviews on sites like Yelp.

“Consumers probably don’t know that businesses weren’t given the option to be on (Postmates), which isn’t fair for them or us,” said Ngo. “I love the service as a consumer, but I don’t like it as a business owner because I gave no consent and now I can’t opt out.”

Pushkin’s: Not good for gluten-free offerings

As soon as Postmates began operating in Sacramento, Pushkin’s Bakery co-owner Danny Turner and his staff began experiencing difficulties with the service. Postmates featured the bakery’s menu on its site, but failed to recognize that Pushkin’s rotates its menu daily, causing customers to place orders for items that weren’t available.

Pushkin’s gluten and dairy-free bakery sells goods that just don’t travel well, said Turner.

“Cupcakes and things with frosting or chocolate don’t travel well in 105-degree weather on the back of a bike or in a hot car,” he said. “We’re 100 percent gluten- and dairy-free, and we package our products accordingly. I can’t guarantee they’ll be delivered that way.”

Turner contacted Postmates immediately and asked to be removed from its listings. A Postmates’ merchant development representative replied that customers would experience “as much friction as possible when customers attempt to place an order,” but could not promise all orders from Pushkin’s via Postmates would be declined.

Searches on Postmates’ website and app yielded no results for the restaurant.

“I don’t want to pass up an opportunity for promotion,” he said. “But we might not be the right business for Postmates and they aren’t even looking to recognize that.

“Postmates just isn’t doing a good enough job recognizing and representing the companies they are ordering from.”

Related stories from Sacramento Bee