Food & Drink

Restaurants are catfishing customer - is it legal?

At first glance, Gourmet Deli at 90th Street and First Avenue appears similar to the numerous delis found throughout the city.

However, a new surge of customers is using food delivery apps to order from a bodega without realizing it.

The deli situated at 1741 First Avenue is listed as no fewer than 27 distinct restaurants on Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub, Seamless, and DoorDash.

On those platforms, the deli is presented with multiple names including First Avenue Gourmet Deli, Hero Sandwich Shop, Bosscat Cheesesteaks, The Pancake Snob, Wraps on Tap, Insomnia Buffalo Wings, Panini Fantasy, Jasmine's Coffee Bar, and 15 other aliases.

Each establishment offers an uncannily similar menu, but prices may vary, particularly when compared to the original location.

Princess Panini, Empire State Panini, and Panini Fantasy all have a Tuna Melt Panini priced between $16 to $17, whereas First Avenue Gourmet Deli offers theirs for $9.

During the pandemic, virtual restaurants arose as a way for businesses to generate alternative revenue streams. These establishments, based in a single physical location, operate several "delivery only" ventures under various names. 

Both business models persist, as The Post discovered 10 delis spread across the five boroughs that, on average, operated eight distinct "restaurants." However, some customers express the feeling of false advertising when it comes to these virtual establishments.

In certain instances, a chain restaurant will present itself as a different brand to attract a wider customer base. As an example, Denny's, one of the nation's largest chains, offers its menu exclusively for delivery under the name "the Meltdown."

Experts in the hospitality industry observe that virtual kitchens may not be beneficial for the overall sector.

“They add more competition to an already competitive marketplace and can harm existing restaurants.”

Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance

Uber Eats, however, recently announced plans to crack down on the practice and remove 5,000 online storefronts.