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What is Grubhub, and how does it work?

Like a lot of online services, Grubhub hopes you'll lock in a monthly subscription.
By

Published onJanuary 30, 2023

If you’re an American, it’s hard to ignore the Grubhub name when you’re looking for online eating options. Here’s what you need to know before placing your first order.

What is Grubhub?

Grubhub is an app- and web-based meal delivery service founded in 2004. While its full history is more complex, the short version is that it grew its reach through a merger with Seamless and a series of takeovers, eventually getting bought itself by the Netherlands’ Just Eat Takeaway.

Just Eat operates in many countries around the world, but the Grubhub brand exists mainly in the US, where it covers over 4,000 cities across all 50 states. There are over 300,000 participating restaurants in the country.

How does Grubhub work?

Once users create an account (see below), they can use the Grubhub website or mobile app (for Android and iOS) to browse local restaurants, add menu items to a cart, then select a payment method and check out. While the service is of course focused around delivery, you can skip an associated fee if you opt to pick up food yourself.

Note that partner restaurants don’t handle delivery. Instead your food is picked up by Grubhub drivers, who get paid on a gig basis, much like Uber drivers or Instacart shoppers. For this convenience, restaurants pay Grubhub a portion of their revenue. That’s why it often costs more for online orders than it does for dine-in or take-out.

How to sign up for Grubhub

The app and website offer a variety of ways to sign up. If you want to sign up with your email address, you’ll be prompted to enter your first and last name and create a password. You can also sign up by linking an existing Amazon, Apple, Google, or Facebook account. Either way, you’ll be asked to set a default delivery address.

Be prepared to attach a online payment method to your account, too. Options include credit cards, Google Pay, Apple Pay, or PayPal. If a restaurant supports it, you may be able to use cash, but don’t count on it.

How to use Grubhub

GrubHub screenshot 2021

Assuming you’re using the mobile app, the first thing to do is adjust your filters via the Home tab. You can switch between Delivery and Pickup, and if you hit the Preorder tab, you can schedule an order up to 4 days in advance. If you don’t preorder, Grubhub assumes you want your food ASAP.

In the top bar you’ll see your current delivery address next to a map pin. Tap on this to change where orders go. Make sure your address is as precise as possible, conforming to what you’d find in an app like Google Maps — drivers don’t have time to wander around a neighborhood looking for you.

Use the Sort button to filter local restaurant listings. The app defaults to a “recommended” view, but you can also search by price, rating, distance, or delivery speed. Of these, speed and price (low-to-high) are probably the most useful.

Tap in the Search field to look for something more specific, such as doner kebabs or a particular restaurant.

Once results pop up, select a restaurant to see its menu and add items to your cart. Once you’re ready, continue to checkout, making sure order details are correct. You also get a chance to add special delivery instructions, which can be essential if you live in an apartment or condo complex, or you’re staying at a hotel.

Once you select a payment method, you’re ready to place your order. The order is confirmed by email, and you can keep track of its progress via app notifications and the Orders tab.

What is Grubhub Plus?

Grubhub Plus is a monthly subscription plan that waives delivery fees on orders over a certain minimum ($12 before taxes, tips, and fees). You also get improved customer support, and various perks and rewards, such as charitable donations or occasional free meals.

There are limitations. Restaurants must specifically be participating in Plus, something marked by a listing badge. And even when a restaurant is part of the Plus network, your order loses free delivery if it includes alcohol.

Plus costs $9.99 US per month after a free trial. The trial period can vary, but lasts no more than 30 days.


Read more: How does Uber Eats work

FAQs

Yes, albeit with a giant asterisk next to that. It’s supported only a on per-restaurant basis, and there’s no way of telling ahead of ordering. Assume you’ll be using online payments for most if not all orders.

The answer to this could change at any moment, but DoorDash is typically cheaper for small orders, i.e. ones under $20. If your order is $50 or higher, you should automatically go with Grubhub.

The service is now owned by a Dutch company, Just Eat Takeaway, which completed a $7.3 billion acquisition in 2021.

No. In fact, you’re not allowed to use them with many of Grubhub’s rivals either, since SNAP benefits are intended for groceries, not restaurant food. You can use them with some grocery delivery services.