Voices will be heard across Acadiana Sunday after at least 20 restaurant owners plan to protest Waitr's new "performance-based rate structure."

Their hope for their protest is to establish a clear Waitr outage by resisting the use of either the Waitr App or website for one day in order to create a noticeable loss of revenue. Their hope is that this will demonstrate to Waitr how dependent it is on the restaurants it partners with.

Hot Food Express Owner Zee Baloch told the Advocate,

"We want them to know they need us,"  Baloch says, "We're not saying to go back to 3 percent, but they're taking the rights away from us. What's going to be next? We're paying the driver's wage? We want them to know how we feel. We want this to be fair."

Under the new sliding scale pay model announced by Waitr this week, its partner restaurants could see major losses in revenue. Once it is implemented, Waitr will take a higher commission for restaurants that have a smaller volume of sales and a lower commission for those that have a larger volume.

Wait, there's more

If a restaurant makes more than $20,000 dollars in monthly food sales from the Waitr platform, that restaurant will be charged a 15% commission from Waitr for every transaction. This is according to the new Master Services Agreement that was sent to Acadiana restaurants. Additionally, the agreement says that the commission increases in brackets, reaching a cap at 25% for restaurants with monthly food sales at or below $1,000.

Regardless of public opinion, Waitr stands by the new plan.

National Sales Director for Waitr, Tyson Queen, had this to say:

"The last thing we want to do is just serve out a notice and tell people to just deal with it," Queen said. "At the end of the day — I hate using this line — it is a business. We have to make sure everybody is in a position to make money. We want to empower restaurants to help them have a better chance to compete."

 

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rotolo's Pizzeria, Mitch Rotolo, was once an exclusive partner with Waitr. Since the controversy, Rotolo says that he will welcome any delivery business that wants to come through the door.

"We’re very concerned about Waitr changing their fee structure," Rotolo said. "If their model requires more revenue, they need to ask the customer to pay more for the service, instead of going back to the vendor and squeezing them. That’s unfair."

The tone of the new agreement also has restaurant owners upset.

Under the new terms, restaurants will be prohibited from charging a higher price on Waitr Food than regular, in-restaurant transactions. Restaurants will also be responsible for credit card fees charged by credit card companies to the restaurants. Restaurants are also not allowed to use photos taken by Waitr for any purpose.

So what did Queen have to say?

"We realize what's going on, being from this area, and that's why we're trying to reach out personally and hear these folks on a local level and not just let them anguish in silence," Queen said. "We're truly here to be the voice of local restaurants."

How will these new terms affect restaurants in bigger markets? Owner of Red Zeppelin Pizza in Baton Rouge, Ray VanMerrienboer does not share much concern.

VanMerrienboer says that Waitr accounts for 25% of his restaurant's to-go sales, and believes he may see more sales from Waitr with less competition on the platform.

Waitr's new terms go into effect Aug. 1. Any restaurant that does not sign the new contract by July 31 will be removed from the Waitr platform.