Imposters stealing Utah restaurant names to deceive drivers and customers on food delivery apps

Mar 18, 2024, 10:21 PM | Updated: Mar 19, 2024, 6:07 am

PROVO – Nico’s Pizza has been serving authentic, East Coast pizza in Provo for nearly two decades.

In all that time, the restaurant has never done business with DoorDash.

“We never wanted to do it,” said managing owner Nate Bertasso. “Because once it leaves my hands, I don’t have control over the product. The food has made our business locally famous – so that’s why we stayed out of it.”

Yet, from time to time, Bertasso said his restaurant has appeared on the food delivery service app. He usually finds out when “dashers” show up looking for food orders the restaurant never received.

“It looks bad for us because people make an order to get our food and they don’t get our food in the end,” he said.

Imperfect solution

Bertasso said when he calls DoorDash to complain about his restaurant being listed on its app without his consent, it addresses it in a way that makes it arguably worse for him.

“It says, ‘Temporarily closed on DoorDash,’” he said.

A phone displaying a message for a bogus restaurant listing

Nico’s Pizza owner Nate Bertasso shows a message on the DoorDash app saying his restaurant is “temporarily closed.” (Meghan Thackrey, KSL TV)

Bertasso showed this to KSL on the app.

While that keeps “dashers” from showing up for nonexistent food orders, anyone searching for Nico’s Pizza may get the wrong impression and think the restaurant itself is closed.

“Now, there’s the doubt,” Bertasso said. “Because what if they think that I’m closed as a business now versus just closed on DoorDash?”

He said he’s gone to DoorDash several times to ask it to completely purge the restaurant from its app, but to no avail.

“It’s been about a year that we’ve been fighting with DoorDash to take it off and they keep saying, ‘We can’t take it off. We don’t have the power to do that,’” Bertasso said. “It’s like, you definitely have the power to do that.”

Frustrated, he decided it was time to call the KSL Investigators.

Nico’s Pizza owner Nate Bertasso says they chose not to use food delivery apps over concerns of what happens to their products after leaving the restaurant. (Meghan Thackrey, KSL TV)

“Small businesses have enough to overcome, we don’t need to add another wrinkle to it by doing this,” he said.

KSL reached out to DoorDash on behalf of Nico’s Pizza. In a statement, a spokesperson wrote: “DoorDash has no tolerance for fraud, continually monitoring our platform to prevent, detect, and take action against fraudulent behavior. We have swiftly removed the fraudulent Nico’s Pizza storefront from our platform, in addition to reaching out directly to understand their situation in more detail and support their business.”

Delivery app deception

This is not the first time we have reported on Utah restaurants being added to food delivery service platforms against their will. Two years ago, the owner of a Park City cupcake shop contacted us when she couldn’t get Uber Eats to remove her menu from its app.

The Bayou in Salt Lake City advertises a disclaimer on its website that they don’t do business with delivery apps. The Bayou operators say their restaurant still surfaces on food delivery apps and they “are still getting orders from them.”

a woman in a cooking apron looks at a mixer and baked goods

LuAnn Lukenbach of LuAnn’s Cupcakes and Delights discovered her products were listed with a food delivery app without her knowledge when angry customers complained about their orders never arriving. (Josh Szymanik, KSL TV)

And the issue became so pervasive in our nation’s capital that a law was passed to ban third-party meal delivery platforms from arranging to deliver a meal order from a restaurant without first obtaining an agreement with the restaurant.

One thing not immediately clear is how this fraud works. DoorDash did not respond to our inquiry on how bogus restaurant listings pay off for the scam artists. But a recent warning from the Federal Trade Commission may shed some light. It states criminals use the bogus order listings to “rip off drivers and restaurants.” According to the FTC, a scammer will contact the driver about a “problem with an order” and ask for the driver’s “email or bank account” info.

Fixing the problem

After we contacted DoorDash, the fake Nico’s Pizza listing was finally tossed out completely.

As for why it was so difficult for Bertasso to get the listing purged on his own, he told us he felt a bit strong-armed.

“It’s almost like, ‘We don’t want to fix this problem because the easiest way to make it go away is for you to be like, OK, I’ll be on DoorDash.’”

DoorDash said if anyone identifies unusual activity with its business on its platform – they should reach out to DoorDash support immediately.

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Imposters stealing Utah restaurant names to deceive drivers and customers on food delivery apps