I think it’s shonky that Menulog have been inserting themselves as an unwanted middleman between myself and a restaurant I patronise.
There is a lovely Indian Restaurant at my local shops called Delhi to Canberra. During the last year we have ordered takeaway from this restaurant on several occasions.
As I see it, I have searched for this restaurant’s website, so that I can order directly from them. I have found the website, pressed the “Order Online” button, placed my order, and driven up to the restaurant some time later to collect the order. And the restaurant staff said to me, “Can you please order from our website, because Menulog take a cut when you order through them.”
It’s taken me several tries to unravel this confusion, and I’ve only succeeded because I heard rumours that fake websites had been created for American restaurants.
The restaurant’s own website is www.delhitocanberra.com.au. This genuine website can be found in Google’s profile for the business. It provides an online ordering interface. There’s a phone number and a ‘book a table’ button.
But the website that comes up at the top of the google search for “Delhi To Canberra” - the only likely candidate on the first page of the results - is www.delhi-to-canberra.com.au. These are not readily distinguishable in spoken conversation, nor is it likely to attract notice as being a different domain name unless and until you become aware that there are two such websites.
I think that Menulog are exploiting Google’s Pagerank algorithm via their own network of websites; naturally their main website outscales that of a single outlet restaurant, and if they provide a link to their fake website from their main website, then that fake website is going to get a major boost in search ranking prominence.
This web page passes itself off as the restaurant’s own. It includes photographs of indian food, as you’d expect. It includes a thumbnail version of the same logo that appears on the restaurant’s menus etc. It says, “You can find us in Melba at 12 Chinner Crescent, just a short drive from Melba Shops.“ - and those are my quote marks; there are no quote marks on the web page at the time of writing.
It is only if you scroll to the very bottom of the page that Menulog’s name and logo appears. Even after seeing that, a reasonable person would think that the restaurant had chosen to have Menulog host their website - the word ‘us’ is significant. The prominently placed “Order Online” button leads to menulog.com.au as if this were the restaurant’s preferred online ordering mechanism. There is no phone number.
This looks like false advertising to me.
Worse, if you order through Menulog, the price is higher; at 29 March 2021 I find that Butter Chicken is $18.90 direct from the restaurant, but $20.90 through Menulog, and there’s no indication that the price has been inflated.
I don’t want to do business with Menulog. I dislike the way they exploit their delivery drivers. Yet, on at least two occasions, I have thought I had little choice but to do so. I must have paid $10-$20 more than I would have directly, on each occasion, and since I can use the genuine ordering interface just fine, and I collect the food myself, Menulog have done nothing for me. Shonky as!
My local Indian Restaurant is very small by comparison to Menulog. And no person who had visited the restaurant in question would describe them as being “just a short drive from Melba Shops” - they’re part of the main square of the shops, they use the same parking spaces.
This suggests to me that Menulog probably have a very large number of fake websites for Australian restaurants.
Edit 30/3/2021 links corrected, thanks syncretic!