The takeaway service may have felt like a lifeline during lockdown, but its ambitious vision will dramatically change the way we eat
Shukran Best Kebab – the finest Turkish restaurant in the Seven Sisters area of north London, according to some people (although it is surrounded by fierce rivals to the throne) – joined Deliveroo two years ago, and back then it seemed like a no-brainer. “Life as a small, independent restaurant is hard and the profit margins are slim,” says Hüseyin Kurt, Shukran’s owner. “We wanted more customers and money coming in and Deliveroo seemed to offer that. I didn’t think there was a downside.” Within a few days of signing a contract with the company, a shiny new tablet computer arrived on which orders placed via Deliveroo appeared out of the ether with a satisfying ping.
The sense that something was wrong dawned gradually. Kurt, a gregarious, bearded man in his early 40s, who left his central Anatolian home town in 1995 and used his love of food to build a new life in the UK, ran the numbers: with Deliveroo’s commission amounting to 35% plus VAT on every order, he was forced to increase his prices to avoid losing money on each sale. It meant anyone buying his huge adana kofte or mixed shish kebabs through the Deliveroo app was in effect paying three surcharges for the convenience, as Deliveroo was also charging them a delivery and service fee. That went down badly with previously loyal customers who were presented with a vast number of often heavily discounted competitors when using the app.
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