How a Snafu delivery app turned Christmas dinner at this local Chinese restaurant upside down

On a cold, foggy omicron Christmas day in San Francisco, there was a glitch at a Chinese restaurant in Hayes Valley, with cooks frantically trying to catch up with orders, while delivery drivers idling and smoking outside. Lazy Susan was criticized with five times her usual order volume in the first 30 minutes of service, before she could pull the cutout on her third-party delivery apps, resulting in a large number of canceled and erroneous orders said the restaurant owner. Hanson Li told Eater SF. “Chinese food on Christmas Day is one thing,” Li says. “We are grateful to everyone who comes to us, but we were not prepared for a flood. “

To set the scene, Lazy Susan is a cool Chinese-American restaurant that is less than a year old and therefore celebrated its first Christmas during the last holiday season. The team hosted a few specials throughout the month of December, both a Winter Solstice Feast and a collaboration with Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, which caused a stir in Eater SF, the Chronicle of San Francisco, and other media. And despite the staff issues that plague restaurants these days, the restaurant was full for a busy night. Li says the team had a day off on Christmas Eve and arrived fresh on Christmas Day.

But here’s where it went wrong: Lazy Susan is only open for takeout and delivery at the moment, and the restaurant relies on two different third-party delivery apps, DoorDash and Uber Eats. Li says they activated the apps at 5 p.m. and in the first 30 minutes they were slammed with five times the number of orders typically spread over an entire Saturday night. Li says the way the apps are supposed to be up and running, they’re set at 15-minute increments, and somehow the restaurant hasn’t been able to shut down orders. incoming fairly quickly. “We were inundated,” Li said. “Unlike a restaurant that can turn people down, we just got killed.”

Michael Lieberman is a local lawyer who, after a long drive home from Tahoe, was trying to order Chinese food on Christmas Day, “like the Jews do,” he said by email. Lieberman says he placed an order on DoorDash at 5:30 p.m., which was due to arrive in 45 minutes. But he then received several notifications that his order was assigned to different drivers, and after a two-hour wait, around 7:30 p.m., DoorDash canceled his order entirely. Still hungry, he made his way through town to Lazy Susan, where he encountered a queue of about 15 drivers lined up outside and piles of orders on the counter. The staff apologized and re-ordered, and Lieberman says he tipped generously, even though the experience spoiled the party spirit. “We had Christmas dinner at 10 pm,” says Lieberman. “It wasn’t a brand name Christmas.”

Lieberman says some of DoorDash’s delivery drivers were obviously sick of the wait, and staff noticed that some of the drivers had started taking bad orders. Li wouldn’t go so far as to blame the drivers, but he did confirm that the restaurant had received complaints about bad orders and canceled orders – although he couldn’t say who pressed cancel, whether it was DoorDash. or the restaurant. A representative for DoorDash has corroborated a large number of canceled orders, says it appears to be an isolated incident at Lazy Susan, and that the company is investigating further. In the end, the restaurant and eatery were left stumped, wondering how a technical glitch and push of this magnitude could come about and whether it was, as Silicon Valley likes to say, a problem with the algorithm. “We have a cap,” Li said. “I still don’t know why it was exceeded so quickly. There should have been a trigger. “I don’t know,” Lieberman repeats. “It looks like the restaurant should have a circuit breaker.”

Of course, Chinese delivery is a popular option on Christmas Day, and it may have been even more appealing this year, given the backdrop of both a rainy day and a new variant. It may also have been a unique confluence of factors at Lazy Susan, in that it was a bustling new restaurant. But by connecting with a few other Chinese restaurants in town, while they say they’ve done better with the apps over the holidays, they weren’t surprised either. George Chen of China Live said that on Christmas Eve 2021 he had a good delivery deal, but had a similar problem on Chinese New Year’s Eve last year when his kitchen was slammed with it. 350 orders. “There were tickets falling on the floor,” says Chen, who estimates he had to reimburse 20% of people. Likewise, Brandon Jew says Mamahuhu was very busy on Christmas Eve, but he’s learned to limit and mitigate issues, advising his managers to shut down apps sooner than they think. “There is a learning curve for sure. It’s hard to control, ”says Jew. “When things start to look like they’re about to hit the fan, we learned to flip the switch earlier. ”

On behalf of the restaurant, Li also said that “it was a learning experience.” They appreciate everyone’s patience, and they will be ready for next Christmas. For the upcoming Chinese New Year, the restaurant plans to offer more set menus and pre-orders, to better plan and control the flow. “The only thing that still annoys me is that when orders go through third-party delivery apps, we have no way of apologizing afterwards,” he says. “Which, as a restaurateur, hurts me. We need to work with apps to solve this simple docking problem.

And don’t worry: Lieberman was able to settle the matter to his satisfaction. Upon cancellation, DoorDash did not offer him anything. On the first complaint, customer service offered him a $ 50 credit. But after a subsequent exchange, customer support finally offered him the oddly specific amount of $ 187. “In the spirit of Christmas, this solved the case,” Lieberman said. Although he plans to cook his own Christmas dinner next year.

About Stuart M. McFarland

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