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Uber Eats, Grubhub ‘imposters’ rile popular Vegas restaurants

Updated April 19, 2024 - 9:45 am

Esther’s Kitchen, widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in Las Vegas, is not on Uber Eats. But that hasn’t stopped the delivery platform from hosting a page for something called Esther’s Italian Pasta Kitchen. In a Wednesday Facebook post, James Trees, chef-owner of Esther’s Kitchen, called out the page, claiming it is an imposter.

“How can you allow businesses to be impersonated and damage people’s reputations on your platform?” he asked Uber Eats in the post. “I wonder which one of my lawyer friends wants to sue a giant company for allowing garbage restaurants to impersonate the business that I built from the ground up?”

Trees is a James Beard Award finalist. Esther’s, an Italian restaurant, reopened in March in its stylish new 10,000-square-foot digs at 1131 S. Main St. in downtown Vegas.

Esther’s Italian Pasta Kitchen, according to its Uber Eats page, is at 10890 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 107, in Henderson. Something called NY Pizza & Bagel Cafe occupies that space. It is unclear whether the similar name has caused any confusion or whether the confusion would open the business or Uber Eats to liability.

Uber Eats did not respond to a request for comment.

The owners of NY Pizza & Bagel Cafe could not immediately be reached for comment.

Same name as a Vegas institution

There is also an Uber Eats page for a restaurant calling itself “Gaetano’s Ristorante.” It is not, however, the well-known Vegas restaurant Gaetano’s Ristorante, a family-owned place that’s been serving for more than 20 years. That well-known Gaetano’s is at 10271 S. Eastern Ave., Suite 111, Henderson.

The Uber Eats page for “Gaetano’s Ristorante” — the exact same name — shows 3380 Arville St. as the address. That’s in Chinatown, about 14 miles from the Henderson Gaetano’s. What occupies 3380 Arville? That would be Boss Pizza, a joint with 1½ stars on Yelp.

“I feel violated,” said Nick Palmeri, co-owner of Gaetano’s in Henderson, founded by his father, Gaetano Palmeri.

“I don’t know who these people are. It’s disgraceful. I put in 80 hours a week, and then some dirtbag just profits off other people’s success and name and reputation. And God forbid someone gets sick from their food, and it says Gaetano’s on the Uber ticket.”

A person who answered the telephone at Boss Pizza said the owner was not in and hung up when asked to comment on the connection between the pizzeria and the Uber Eats pages.

Worried about dumpling confusion

ShangHai Taste, one of the anchor restaurants of Chinatown Vegas, is celebrated for its xiao long bao, the delicate-yet-sturdy Shanghainese dumplings filled with hot savory broth. Joe Muscaglione and chef Jimmy Li, a 2023 James Beard Award semifinalist, own the restaurant.

Muscaglione recently found a page on Grubhub for Shanghai Taste Handmade Dumplings & Asian Cuisine at 14 Pacific Ave., Henderson, a space occupied by Rose Garden, a Chinese restaurant. ShangHai Taste is on some delivery apps, and Muscaglione said he was concerned people might confuse his ShangHai Taste page with the Grubhub page for Shanghai Taste Handmade Dumplings, with potentially serious consequences.

“I feel like imitation is a form of flattery, but it seems an obvious attempt to impersonate us. We don’t know their standards of quality or ingredients or cooking skills. Our standards are extremely high, and this could damage our reputation and our brand.” Muscaglione put the onus on Grubhub to “do a little research” before approving restaurant pages.

For a neighborhood pizzeria, a similar page

As first reported by KVVU, Fox 5, Christina Martin, owner of Manizza’s Pizza on South Rainbow Boulevard in Spring Valley, recently discovered that another restaurant was using the name Manizza’s Pizza on Uber Eats. Manizza’s owned by Martin has never joined the platform, and the Uber Eats page was offering dishes Manizza’s does not serve.

A Thursday morning search for Manizza’s on Uber Eats did not return any results, suggesting the page had been removed. In an Instagram post, Martin offered to provide a free pizza to anyone who had mistakenly ordered through that other page. “Just show us a screenshot of your order and bring it in.”

Martin said she came forward because “I really wanted to inform consumers … and warn other small businesses of the risk to consumers.” The margins were thin enough in the restaurant business, she continued, without having to worry about receiving one-star reviews if pizza served under her name was bad. “You’re taking out of my pocket; you’re taking out of my employees’ pocket,” she said.

Getting a similar page removed

Ethan Spiezer, owner of Solamente Pizza, one of the top-rated pizzerias in the city, Googles his business every so often. In March, he noticed an Uber Eats page called Solamente Pizza, even though his shop was not on the platform. He traced the page back to Boss Pizza and called the restaurant. Only after Spiezer said he would use social media to spread the word about the Uber Eats page was it taken down.

Spiezer said his discovery of the Uber Eats page followed a significant decline in nightly pizza orders, although he acknowledged that “it’s hard to quantify what damage was done.”

Steps for consumers to take

It’s fair to ask how consumers could reasonably be fooled by third-party pages that seem to come from restaurants with such established reputations, even with page names that are similar or exactly the same.

“In the digital world, consumers can’t as easily diligence the restaurant they are ordering from — just a name and a few menu items can be misleading. Meanwhile, a restaurant can open a digital storefront in just a few hours, with not much lost if they receive a cease-and-desist,” said Meredith Sandland, author of “Delivering the Digital Restaurant” and CEO of Empower Delivery.

“The best way that consumers who want these storied restaurants’ food can support them is by going direct to the restaurants’ own websites and bypassing the marketplaces altogether. Direct ordering ensures that consumers are getting the real deal, and is usually cheaper.”

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram.

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