Setting Up a Fake Restaurant on Uber Eats Is Disconcertingly Easy, According to the BBC
The new organization was able to sell a burger on Uber Eats without any identity check or hygiene rating.
Back in 2017, a writer for Vice made international headlines by launching what was essentially a fake restaurant out of his shed in London and then gaming the system to land the city’s #1 spot on TripAdvisor. Though both revealing and shocking, the stunt was ultimately harmless: TripAdvisor is a review site, so worst case scenario, a few duped diners were left upset by the prank. But yesterday, the BBC revealed it had created a similar but more disturbing scenario on another major restaurant industry player: The British news organization opened a fake restaurant on Uber Eats and delivered a meal without any real oversight whatsoever.
In a brief but impactful two and a half minute video, the BBC opens a “restaurant” by making burgers on a charcoal grill in their small London front yard. They dub the business the “Best Burger Corporation” (or BBC, get it?). “We wanted to see how easy it was to trade on the Uber Eats platform,” the video states. “So we made up a [restaurant] name, created a menu and applied online. Uber Eats asked if we had a council hygiene rating. We said we would get one soon. A few days later we were sent equipment to start trading. There had been no identity checks.”
Mark McGlinn, a food safety expert who was in on the experiment, placed an order from the Best Burger Corp, and indeed, not long after, the video shows an Uber driver picking up a burger from the front yard grill and delivering it to its destination. “I am astonished by what I saw, but also, very, very alarmed,” McGlinn says. “We're in desperate times, it seems to me, if very, very large food delivery platforms can be operating in this way.”
“I am almost speechless with horror about that,” Heather Hancock, chair of the Food Standards Agency, later tells the BBC.
For their part, Uber Eats sent a statement to the BBC, writing, “We are deeply concerned by this breach of our food safety policy and have taken immediate action to update our sign-up requirements. It is unacceptable that a restaurant that did not meet our requirements was able to use the platform. We are working hard to ensure this does not happen again.”
Meanwhile, businesses operate differently in different countries, so the question becomes could a similar thing happen here in the U.S.? And if so, what is Uber Eats doing to rectify the situation on this side of the pond? We’ve reached out to Uber Eats and will update if and when we hear back.
UPDATE 7/2/19: Specifically asked whether what happened in the United Kingdom could also happen here in the United States, Uber Eats replied with the following statement:
"As outlined in our Community Guidelines, restaurants are required to meet all relevant licensing requirements and to follow all food regulations—including food safety regulations. Restaurants must maintain valid restaurant licenses and/or permits. Any restaurant found to be without license or following local laws would be deactivated."