How Grubhub’s ‘Free Lunch’ Plan Spiraled Into Chaos


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So, how did this all happen? A confluence of alleged miscommunication, general delivery app tech glitches, and more, explained below.

Why did Grubhub launch the promo?

Underlying all of yesterday’s pandemonium is the fact that delivery apps are in hot water. They did record-busting business during the pandemic, when more people were ordering meals to eat at home. Goal ace customers are increasingly dining out againapps like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub are struggling with sales. (Even during the height of the COVID-19-induced delivery spike, these cost-intensive behemoths weren’t turning a profit.) stocks have plunged since, and Grubhub, which is currently for sale, supposedly suffered the biggest losses, according to NBC.

Tuesday’s free lunch campaign was a ploy by Grubhub to get users back on the app. And they aren’t the only ones clambering to hold on to their customer base. In February, a system-wide crash befuddled a slew of DoorDash drivers and angered users whose orders got lost and waylaid. The same thing happened again last week. And after years dominating the delivery industry, DoorDash finally has a bunch of competitors all dipping into the same customer and restaurant pool.

Why were customers upset?

In a tale as old as time, Grubhub tried to lure back customers with a classic move: a coupon for free food. The $15 discount, marketed as “free lunch,” also comes at a time when inflation and rising prices are a major stressor. The coupon’s redemptions were six times higher than previous campaigns the brand had run. Grubhub got people hyped—and many customers who tried to use the discount code said that the company didn’t properly follow through.

“Order canceled after a 2 hour wait,” Twitter user Jonah Sahn replied to Grubhub, “and now every restaurant has ‘paused’ ordering. It was a nice thought, but it wasn’t thought out.” Another customer was in the 3,630th place in Grubhub’s customer service queue after waiting more than an hour for food. Some did foresee the chaos and ordered early. “​​Was on Grubhub at 11 am, with my food in the cart like I was waiting on a drop,” tweeted one user.

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