GrubHub Awards: Fools’ Gold

Walking by Colala the other day, I saw this sticker on the front door: 

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Given my one experience with Colala and what I’ve heard from neighbors, I was surprised to discover that our nearest source of Chinese-Japanese cuisine served #1 anything. I don’t usually like General Tso’s Chicken, but could it be that Colala’s was better Chinese food?

Then I looked more closely:

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So GrubHub wasn’t comparing the General Tso’s Chicken at Colala to the General Tso’s Chicken at other restaurants. No, as Josh S., one of GrubHub’s “fabulous chatters” told me:

Josh S: The Golden Grub Award is a door sticker recognizing a restaurant’s Top Menu Item ordered by GrubHub customers.

Blake: So, it’s the most popular dish at a restaurant, not that a given restaurant serves the best, for example, General Tso’s Chicken in the area?

Josh S: That’s right, it symbolizes the most popular item.

If my apartment was on GrubHub, in other words, the Golden Grub Award would go to toast, which is what our regulars call sliced bread, whether or not it goes in the toaster.

Is the Golden Grub Award deceptive marketing? Josh S wasn’t trying to hide what the sign really means. But it’s easy for to be confused when you walk past that gold star on a not-quite-Zagat crimson background in a restaurant window; here’s a Chinese place in Inwood that also moves a lot of General Tso’s. It’s not just the customers who misunderstand; restaurants have boasted that they have the best cheese pizza or California sandwich when all it means is that’s what gets ordered a lot via GrubHub, or that customers think their fried-chicken establishment is amazing, when really all they did was sign up with GrubHub.

When I coach soccer, everyone gets a trophy for participation. Some people deplore this practice as a symptom of a weak society. I’m not sure I agree: many 5-year-olds don’t know which way to kick the ball, and especially for the more timid ones, attendance and persistence deserve recognition.

But the restaurant business is not the Pee Wee division. In New York, it’s more like the World Cup. 

One comment

  1. nataliepo

    I am one of those deplorers of gratuitous trophy giving/earning.

    For example, a member of my family restored a classic car to its original beautiful state, and, if I may say so myself, it may be the most impressive wheels you’ll see in your lifetime. He belongs to local car clubs that have competitions awarding the best car, where you literally show up with the car and pop open the hood. He wins a 3-4 foot trophy nearly every time he goes just because he has the best car there. I love this member of my family, of course, and he knows it’s a ridiculous cycle. There aren’t new (old) cars vying for these trophies — the same people will live in the area for years. But the same judges award the same trophies over and over. Also, these are grown men who drive around in cars as trophies who are rewarded with yet another trophy. I find the whole thing absurdly amusing, and so does he — it’s why he keeps going back!