Grubhub vs Postmates: A founder throws down, but misses the point

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Grubhub founder Matt Maloney posted an amazing throw-down of a piece about Postmates and Door Dash on Medium a few days ago. 

It was a very well argued piece, and I find myself agreeing with much of it.

For instance: I totally buy that it creates problems for restaurants when these sites don’t partner with them. And I totally agree that the fees are way too high for the mass market and aren’t as clear as they could be. And, like many others in the Valley, I worry that companies like these aren’t sustainable. And as I’ve written before, almost all of the on-demand companies out there aren’t really that innovative either.

And yet, I almost never use Grubhub. I use Postmates several times a week. I use it more regularly than any other on-demand service except Lyft. Even when Grubhub and Postmates lists the same restaurant, most times, I’ll go with Postmates. I’ll go with Postmates in some cases even if the restaurant has its own free delivery.

Why? A lot of reasons that Maloney either misses or just chose not to articulate…

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In defense of Chipotle, or: Why I paid $26 to have Postmates deliver me Chipotle

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chipotle

Whenever you’re feeling alone and seeking the most efficient delivery system for two pounds of Mexican food, there is no substitute for the burrito. A true feat of culinary engineering, the burrito is the dietary equivalent of a hobo’s bindle, packing into a tight clump every item essential to living — as long as your idea of “the good life” requires only the simple joy of fleeting sensual pleasures. And indeed after ingesting one (or two?) of these carb-heaps the only endeavor worth immediately pursuing is to nap on a pile of hay in a moving freight car.

Discerning aficionados of these football-sized beige banquets of grease and gluten will often pretend that Taqueria Cancun in San Francisco’s Mission District offers the most satisfying solution to our perverse desire to take a 1200 mega-calorie time-bomb straight to the gut. But while the fare at Taqueria Cancun is undoubtedly “legit” by whatever pretentious foodie metrics may apply, the experience of eating a burrito isn’t supposed to be a celebration of artisanal excellence. Whatever drives us in these cravings has nothing to do with intellect or honor. There’s no way to eat a burrito while feeling self-conscious, either of your body or reputation — it’s physically impossible. And Fox News wonders why Hillary and Obama always get the burrito bowl.

No, a pursuit of burritos is a pursuit of comfort and familiarity that exists on such a deeply intimate level that not even the savviest politicians dare fake it. Which is why I feel zero shame in saying if given the choice between a burrito from Taqueria Cancun — or some other hipster-approved Mexican outpost — and one from a national chain favored by suburban parents and high school varsity jocks, I’ll choose Chipotle every time.

And so you can imagine my excitement upon learning that starting this week, the delivery app Postmates had partnered with Chipotle to deliver these emotional burrito blankets to customers in 67 US cities, including Brooklyn. I know it makes me a 21st century scumbucket to feel so much happiness upon learning I could now have Chipotle delivered to my door in Bushwick, a neighborhood that offers no shortage of phenomenal culinary choices — not least of which Latin American choices that are exponentially more authentic than what’s offered at the popular Tex Mex chain.

(Note that my devotion to Chipotle reaches only as far as its burritos. The Anthony Bourdain-approved Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos on Starr Street makes the best tacos in Bushwick, while the chicken nachos at the Santa Ana Deli & Grocery on Irving Avenue are absurdly perfect.)

Within a matter of minutes, I downloaded the Postmates app and searched for Chipotle. The app offered a simple ordering interface not unlike Seamless or Grubhub and before long I was ready to pull the trigger on my order. As expected there was a delivery fee, and here’s where my single-minded gluttony would be put to the test. We’re not talking a $ 2 or $ 3 delivery fee like most restaurants. No, Postmates charged $ 16.25 to bring my total for a chicken fajita-burrito to $ 26.06. But like the addict I am, as soon as my brain expected Chipotle there was no denying it. I hit “Get It Now” and in less than an hour a man arrived at my apartment building with a brown Chipotle bag that weighed as much as a small medicine ball.

There was little to complain about the burrito itself. All of the ingredients requested were there and in solid ratios to one another. The only downside was that, unsurprisingly, the burrito wasn’t exactly piping hot — after all, the closest Chipotle to me is 4.9 miles away in Brooklyn Heights which is about a 25-minute drive.

At this point you might be thinking this is some kind of sponsored post for Chipotle. It’s not. The company’s co-CEOs are among the most obscenely high-paid in the country, and I’ve written at length about why large CEO pay ratios are bad for American workers. And while the company’s devotion to sustainability and fair treatment of animals is better than most fast food restaurants, their record is not exactly pristine either.

In any case, if you’re like me and are able to admit to yourself the glorious unpretentious perfection of Chipotle and are willing to drop $ 25 on lunch maybe once a month, the Postmates delivery system works and is worth the money — and the shame.

 [photo by animakitty]

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