Grubhub ‘free lunch’ turns into an NYC food fiasco: ‘I didn’t eat all day’

Grubhub ‘free lunch’ turns into an NYC food fiasco: ‘I didn’t eat all day’

Grubhub’s free-lunch initiative in New York on Tuesday afternoon left customers fed up — and complaining on social media about its failure to deliver. 

“I was really annoyed because I was hungry and I wanted my food,” Ryan Melendez, 28, told The Post of his nightmarish attempt to score complimentary fare via the digital food delivery service.

The marketing professional, who works in Soho, was one of the 400,000 eaters who attempted to take advantage of the online marketplace’s $15 discount with the promo code “FREELUNCH” for orders placed between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on May 17.

Diners were only financially responsible for “any applicable tax, fees and optional tip,” per Grubhub.

Grubhub’s free-lunch promo deal left a number of New Yorkers without food for the day.
grubhub/Twitter

But the promotion didn’t go as planned — with the deluge of users crashing the system and widespread reports of undelivered food.

In some cases, popular lunch spots were so slammed they were forced to cancel orders. In others, the food never made it to its intended destination due to massively slowed delivery speeds. 

A trending TikTok with more than 110,000 views featured scenes from a local Just Salad, where employees were ultimately forced to toss out hundreds of bagged lunch orders that couldn’t be distributed on time. 

Ryan Melendez
Ryan Melendez told The Post he tried to take advantage of the Grubhub promotion but that his order was ultimately canceled.
Ryan Melendez

After receiving a series of “error” messages when trying to use the password on the app for a platter of rotisserie chicken, beans and rice from Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine in Manhattan’s Financial District, Melendez’s order finally went through at 11:30 a.m.

Relieved, he paid a total $6 in tax and gratuity — then waited for more than two hours for a dish that would never come. 

“Around 2 p.m. I called Grubhub, and I was on hold for about 20 minutes before I was connected with a representative, who ultimately had to cancel the order because the restaurant hadn’t delivered the food,” said Melendez, who commutes into Manhattan from Jersey City.

“But by the time the rep cancelled the order, the promotion had ended, so I completely missed out on the discount,” he said.

The company refunded Melendez his $6 payment and gave him a 40% coupon for his next purchase. 

Social media cynics accuse GrubHub of failing to properly notify New York City restaurants about its free lunch endeavor.
Social media cynics accuse Grubhub of failing to properly notify New York City restaurants about its free-lunch endeavor.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Grubhub did not respond to The Post’s request for a comment. However, on Twitter, it wrote: “To help businesses prepare for today’s promotion, we provided advance notice to our restaurant network.” (One ticked-off Twitter user, whose tweet raked in more than 108,000 likes, alleged the company “didn’t tell restaurants & delivery workers they were doing this.”)

“Additionally, given the anticipated demand, we increased driver incentives,” Grubhub added. “We are thankful for the incredible work they put forth today and are working to address any concerns they may have and optimize for future offers.”

A spokesperson for the app released a statement to Eater on Tuesday, noting: “During the free lunch promotional period redemptions were six times higher than a similar promotion we launched in 2021, and at times we were averaging six thousand orders per minute.”

bags of food
A trending TikTok with more than 110,000 views featured scenes from a local Just Salad, where employees were ultimately forced to toss out hundreds of bagged lunch orders that couldn’t be distributed on time. 
euffyxoxo/Tiktok

Melendez, who’s been a happy patron of Grubhub for more than five years, suggests that the delivery service consider extending its generosity beyond a tight two-hour window in the future. 

“Next time they should run the promotion for the entire day,” he said. “That way there won’t be a ton of people flooding the restaurants at once, everyone can utilize the discount and no one goes hungry.”


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