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Facing High Commissions, Some Chicago Restaurants Are Turning To New Delivery Apps With Different Pricing

CHICAGO (CBS) -- So many of us have relied on food delivery services during the coronavirus pandemic – but if you order a lot, you know most apps take a good-sized cut for themselves.

That has created an opening for new businesses with different pricing. As CBS 2's Marie Saavedra reported Wednesday night, these businesses are fighting for, and winning over, Chicago customers.

"There were so many great regulars who really helped us out," said Shannon Tauschman. "If they had not helped us out, I don't think I'd be talking to you today."

Tauschman is general manager of the Chicago Firehouse Restaurant, at 1401 S. Michigan Ave. in the South Loop. She thanks customers showing their love through orders – many of them takeout.

"They came out full-force to order to go from us," Tauschman said. "It's still every single night, we get our to-go orders."

But as diners' habits changed, so did those of the restaurant. They passed on well-known delivery apps like DoorDash, UberEats, and Grubhub.

"They just got bigger and bigger during the pandemic, and customer service was pretty lax," Tauschman said.

Instead, they went with ChowNow, one of several food delivery services with different price structure - seeing huge growth in Chicago.

"All of these numbers are just off the charts," said ChowNow chief executive officer Chris Webb, "which is great, because we don't charge restaurants commissions, and that means the restaurants get to keep as much of that revenue as they need these days."

Lalamove is another such app, which arrived in Chicago last October – and which provides pickups and delivery for things beyond food.

"Since January of 2021, we've seen to today's date almost over 2,000 percent order growth," said Lalamove Chicago city manager Patrick Kretowicz. "When we do speak to users, it has been, again, our pricing and convenience."

The bottom line is everything. Chicago currently caps delivery service fees at 15 percent, but $15 off every $100 order adds up. With ChowNow, subscriptions run from $100 to $150 monthly, and Lalamove has a base rate and charges per mile.

For the Firehouse, that structure softens the blow to its budget.

"Last night, I think we had eight," Tauschman said.

And that means a lot, at a time in the restaurant industry when every penny counts.

"We're struggling on all ends, and so if we can save some money here and there, we're going to jump on it," she said.

So what does that all mean for you, the diner? If your favorite restaurant isn't on the bigger apps, you might find it on one of the smaller ones.

Also, fewer fees mean restaurants don't have to hike their prices to make up the difference.

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