Rogue restaurant websites linked to the OrderAhead delivery service have been quietly getting makeovers, causing them to look considerably less like official restaurant sites than they did as recently as a few days ago.
The changes follow a series of reports by GeekWire about the online tactics used to promote thousands of unofficial restaurant sites connected to the food ordering and delivery startup. In many cases, these sites appeared as if they were the official restaurant sites, diverting users to OrderAhead, which then ordered and delivered food from the restaurants at a markup, unbeknownst to the restaurant owners.
OrderAhead has yet to respond to our repeated requests for comment. But since our reporting began, many of these unofficial sites have been changed to remove the restaurant logos and add references to OrderAhead.
Here’s a before-and-after-example from Saigon Kitchen in San Jose. First, here’s the site as of earlier this week.
And here’s how the same site looks now, with the OrderAhead logo replacing the restaurant logo in the middle of the picture, and a new, prominent reference to “OrderAhead Delivery” at the top of the site.
We’ve seen similar changes on other OrderAhead sites, as well. We contacted Saigon Kitchen this morning, and employees were unaware of any connection between the restaurant and the OrderAhead service.
GeekWire last week used several of the unauthorized restaurant sites to order food from restaurants in San Francisco and Seattle. The orders were placed, picked up and delivered by OrderAhead workers as if they were regular customers, without telling the restaurants they were delivering to OrderAhead customers and marking up the prices, in addition to adding a delivery fee.
Additional research this week showed that someone is also claiming and verifying Google Business listings for these rogue OrderAhead sites — allowing the sites to appear prominently in search results and Google Maps, perpetuating the impression that the unofficial sites are official restaurant sites.
OrderAhead, a product of the Y Combinator startup accelerator, has a variety of high-profile backers, including Matrix Partners, Ignition Partners, Menlo Ventures, CrunchFund, Marc Benioff, Jerry Yang and Eric Schmidt (via Innovation Endeavors). We’ve left messages with OrderAhead and Y Combinator, seeking comment on everything we’ve discovered, and have yet to hear back.