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Disguised On DoorDash? Several Chain Restaurants Marketing Food Under Different Names

LINCOLN (CBS13) — You just ordered in. But do you really know where your food is coming from?

A Call Kurtis investigation uncovered several chain restaurants marketing their food under different names.

"It's lying!" said Lincoln viewer Melissa Cudney.

She ordered from a restaurant called Chicken Sammy's on DoorDash.  But when the food arrived it looked familiar, so she searched the address and found Chicken Sammy's was really a Red Robin in Lincoln.

"If I wanted to order Red Robin, I  would have ordered from Red Robin," Cudney said.

Some people call them "ghost kitchens." DoorDash calls them "virtual brands," saying it's a way for restaurants "to reach new customers and grow sales in low-cost ways."

We looked at two chicken sandwiches from Red Robin, and two from its "virtual brand" Chicken Sammy's. The sandwiches appear to be identical. They have the same names and the exact same price tags.

"The actual labels that had our food on it looked like it had been cut where the Red Robin logo was," Cudney said.

We found other virtual names for big chains on other food delivery apps, too. On Grubhub, "Neighborhood Wings" is linked to a brick-and-mortar Applebee's on Arden Way.

If you look closely on the Grubhub site, there is a small logo in the upper right corner that says "by Applebee's"

On DoorDash, we found Pasqually's Pizza and Wings which is linked to a brick-and-mortar Chuck E. Cheese in Sacramento.

Public Relations expert Doug Elmets thinks the practice is deceiving.

"In the long run, consumers are going to become more aware that the wool's being pulled over their eyes by these large chains," Elmets said.

A Grubhub spokesperson told us,

"Delivery-only virtual concepts on Grubhub – or from other food delivery companies – have been a rising trend over the last year. We feature these concepts from restaurant partners on our Marketplace, and restaurant owners choose how to brand them to experiment with new ideas without adding overhead."

A DoorDash spokesperson said the company is adding banners to identify the so-called virtual brands.

"Many local and national restaurants have turned to virtual brands to help them reach new customers and grow sales in low-cost ways while dine-in operations remain limited. We know that customers value transparency and knowing where their food is coming from, so we've been working hard to make sure that virtual brands are clearly marked on the DoorDash platform and we encourage our partners to be forthcoming as well," a DoorDash spokesperson said. 

Melissa Cudney has a different solution.

"We won't be dining at Red Robin for a while. You're straight-up lying to people" she said.

Red Robin, Chuck E. Cheese and Applebee's did not respond to us. When we checked Grubhub today, Neighborhood Wings was not an option tied to the Arden location. We also found the Pasqually's Pizza and Wings menu is different than the Chuck E. Cheese menu, but like Chuck E. Cheese, Pasqually's offers pizza, wings and cheese bread.

So how do you know where your food is coming from? One foolproof way is to Google the address when you order from a restaurant you're unfamiliar with, and see what brick and mortar restaurant pops up.

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