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Merritt meal delivery service under fire for not consulting with restaurants

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A Merritt restaurant owner is asking the public to avoid ordering from an online delivery service that offers their food despite never agreeing to sign up for it.

Mongos - Mongolian Grill co-owner Jisu Shin said they never agreed to work with the online delivery company Merritt Eats and they requested that the company take down the Mongos options posted on the delivery service’s offerings online, but they refuse.

“We never worked with them, because they just started their business and they (never asked us,)” she said. “We don’t need that delivery service anyway, so we told him (the owner) to please take our name (off the website) but they haven’t taken it off of there.”

The rise of delivery services, their business models and impacts on local restaurants has long been a topic of conversation, but Merritt Eats is taking it a step further. 

READ MORE: This Kelowna restaurateur wants you to know the true cost of meal delivery services

The website for Merritt Eats still lists the restaurant with limited menu options and higher prices than she charges, she said.

Mongos made a public Facebook post about the issue, asking customers to order through their Facebook page or by calling them instead.

William Tsui, one of the co-founders of Merritt Eats, said the business has been operating since June and will respect restaurant requests if they don’t want to be on the Merritt Eats website.

Merritt Eats operates independently from the local businesses and acts as a restaurant customer, purchasing orders from restaurants that are received online before delivering it with a markup in order to make a profit. Not all businesses featured on Merritt Eats have contracts with the company.

Tsui said they have been emailing back and forth with the Mongolian grill and through Facebook and did not receive an official response from the grill to take down the menu items.

Another business owner on the menu of Merritt Eats, who declined to be named over concern over the impact to the business, said she was initially frustrated that the restaurant’s menu was put up on the site before she was made aware of it, but she has no right to refuse customers.

She said if customers are happy, then she is fine with the website. “I don’t decide for anyone else.”

“Delivery companies (for the past 20 years) have been acting in the exact same way… Every business is re-selling and marking up a product already in some way so when you got to the restaurant and buy Coke from Costco, do you go and email and write to ask if you can resell Coke products?” Tsui said.

Merritt bylaw officer Keith Bacon said the company does not have a business licence to operate in the city and is operating in contravention with city regulations.

He said other businesses that are offering delivery services are operating in the city legally with appropriate business licences.

“My understanding is that Merritt Eats does not have a business license anywhere, period,” he said. “They claim they’re not in Merritt, and somehow all they do is operate a computer and therefore they don’t need a business licence (but the city will conduct enforcement for that).”

Tsui said the business is registered as a limited company in B.C. and doesn’t need a business licence to operate in the city.

“That is because we don’t have a physical presence or office or staff that is in the City of Merritt. The entire business is based in the cloud… we’re basically a laptop and a website. It’s the same way that eBay and Amazon (sell products to the city,)” he said.

Tsui said the other co-founder is located in White Rock and declined to give the number of how many delivery drivers they currently have.

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