Do You Really Know Where Your Seamless Orders Are Coming From?

UPDATE: Jezebel is reporting that Seamless and GrubHub are officially changing their policies to halt "ghost kitchens" from preparing food that get delivered to unsuspecting customers. From now on, all restaurants listed will have to be inspected by the health department to make sure they exist and will have a letter grade that is searchable on the Department of Health's database.

UPDATE: We received the following statement from GrubHub regarding verifying restaurant listings:

At GrubHub, we take the accuracy of our restaurant listings seriously. We are partnering with New York’s Department of Consumer Affairs to address this issue and remove inaccuracies from our platforms.
Going forward, GrubHub will take additional steps to verify the details restaurants provide. Our new process includes more checks to validate the name and location of restaurants. Should any discrepancies arise, we will take immediate action to correct information or remove inaccurate listings of restaurants on our platforms. We're also encouraging tips. If you spot any inaccuracy on our platforms, you can alert us at restaurants@grubhub.com or restaurants@seamless.com.

This post was originally published on November 11 at 12:40pm.

Does the term "ghost kitchen" mean anything to you? It didn't mean anything to us, either — until this morning, when we learned the somewhat horrifying news about where our Seamless orders might really be coming from. According to a survey conducted by NBC 4 New York, approximately 10% of restaurants listed on Seamless or GrubHub in New York City (out of 100 randomly surveyed eateries) weren't actually real restaurants at all.

Sometimes, GrubHub or Seamless "restaurants" don't line up with names or addresses that are part of the New York City database of inspected eateries. And that's where ghost kitchens come in. "Some people might be illegally operating from their apartment, from their home, and delivering to people in complete contravention to department of health regulation," explained Julie Menin, New York City's Consumer Affairs commissioner

Another way we could be getting duped is via false restaurant names. We might think our food is coming from a certain eatery when it's really being delivered from somewhere with a low health department grade or pest issues. For example, one listing on GrubHub called "Really Chinese" is actually being delivered from "Abby Chinese," a B-grade restaurant. [Ed. note: These restaurants have since been removed from GrubHub.]

Before you start to freak out about every single Seamless order you've ever placed, there's a pretty simple way to avoid restaurant fraud. Before you place an online order from somewhere new, look up the restaurant on Google Maps to make sure it actually exists. Or, head there yourself sometime to check it out in person. You can also look up public records from your city's health department to find out about the restaurant's health grade history.
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