Popular Yorkshire cafe 'forced to close' because of costly online delivery fees

The owner of a popular cafe and takeaway  has said she has been “forced to close” due to the amount her customers are being charged through online delivery service Just Eat.

Ruth Jones opened Monty’s Cafe on Westmoreland Street, in Wakefield city centre, six years ago and worked steadily through the pandemic, at one point dishing out 70 online orders every day.

However, with the cost of living crisis firmly upon us, Ruth has now closed her business because of the increasing price of gas and electricity as well as the amount her customers were being charged for delivery, as fuel stays at a record high of almost £2 a litre.

Ruth said her electricity bill was scheduled to increase from around £500 to £1,000 a month, which she “just cannot afford”.

Ruth Jones is closing her cafe in Wakefield

She said that on Sunday - her last day at the cafe - she only had eight orders through on Just Eat and just one order last Tuesday.

She said that Just Eat charged her 33 per cent on all orders placed through the website and that customers need to shell out almost £5 in delivery costs and service charges before paying for their meals.

She also said that the current cost of fuel meant that she could not afford to hire her own drivers and that other delivery services are not viable because Just Eat is the “granddaddy” of online food platforms.

She used to employ three people but they have been laid off because she couldn’t afford to keep running the business as she has gone from earning £3,000 a week to just over £400.

Ruth Jones right, pictured with staff member Natalie Brear, left is closing her cafe, Monty's, on Westmoreland Street.

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Her generous landlord has even offered her free rent for a year to keep in her business but she says that it is not enough to keep the business afloat. She said she has contacted the food delivery platform a “number of times to try and resolve the issue” but has not heard anything back from them.

She said: “I closed down on Sunday. It is soul destroying, it is not just me. My landlord has offered me free rent to help me out but it is still not enough. Just Eat is charging places like Costa Coffee and McDonalds £2.49 per delivery but is costing us £5.99 for delivery, which means we are not getting any orders.

“We usually get about 70 orders on a Sunday but I took eight this weekend and just one on Tuesday last week. During the pandemic, I was earning £3,000 a week but after all the fees, I only made £400 last week.”

Ruth is calling on the Government to reduce fuel tax and VAT so that more businesses do not go under.

“Where do you go with the cost of electricity and fuel?" she said. "The Government could help but they haven't. Instead of giving people money off their bills, why doesn't the Government reduce fuel tax or VAT?”

Other cafes in the centre are struggling, too.

Sarah Padden, the owner of Cafe 19, said that she is working more hours and running on a skeleton staff due to the cost of living crisis.

Sarah uses her own drivers and so pays 14% of her total orders to Just Eat, but after VAT, she only sees around £650 per £1000 that she makes. She said that she had to dip into her savings to “keep the business going” but other businesses do not have that luxury.

She said: “Day by day, it is getting worse and worse. The issue with Just eat, the bus strikes and the lack of support, it is just continuous, it is a matter of just surviving now.

“It is a battle, we’re working on our own to survive. We’re short staffed but we can’t afford to hire any more people, we’re working three hours extra everyday. It was great during the pandemic. I didn't reopen until October 2020 because I lost my dad, but up until January of this year, it was fine. I have children and staff to support but we’re living in really tough times .”

However, Just Eat has said that delivery fees "can vary depending on a range of factors" including the distance of delivery.

A Just Eat spokesperson said: "Just Eat operates a delivery service for restaurants that do not have their own delivery fleet and charge a small delivery fee to help cover the costs of providing this service.

"The delivery fee can vary depending on a range of factors including distance of delivery or time taken to deliver food, but we offer a number of promotions like free or reduced delivery fees to help customers with this cost."