A Thai kitchen in an unknown location in San Francisco has been masquerading as Michelin-starred Kin Khao and offering delivery meals on Seamless and Grubhub unbeknownst to Kin Khao and its owner Pim Techamuanvivit.
Techamuanvivit says she was confused Saturday night when she received a phone call at the restaurant from a man who wanted to inquire about a delivery order he had placed about 45 minutes earlier. "Perplexed, I told him we didn’t do delivery, not even take-out," she explains on Twitter. "He said 'What were you doing on Seamless then?'"
Techamuanvivit told the man that the restaurant had never been on Seamless, and the man hung up confused. Techamuanvivit then went to a computer and Googled "Kin Khao delivery," and low and behold there was result on Grubhub that comes up higher than the restaurant's own website. The page on Grubhub — which appears identically to one on sister site Seamless — showed Kin Khao's actual address (55 Cyril Magnin Street), and then a selection of menu items that the real Kin Khao doesn't serve. To make matters worse, Yelp had a Grubhub delivery module on Kin Khao's actual Yelp page.
I told him we’ve never been on it, not in our entirely lifetime as @kinkhao. He sounded really confused, so we said goodbye and I hung up the phone. Then I got a little curious, so I went into the office and googled “kin khao delivery”, and guess what came up.. pic.twitter.com/cptMoYtoZu— Pim Techamuanvivit (@chezpim) January 26, 2020
..of course, the darling of all restaurateurs, @yelp. They even list the fake ordering page, conveniently, right there on the “legit” @yelp review page for us. Just so happy to defraud everyone. pic.twitter.com/iWOiLcTKcw— Pim Techamuanvivit (@chezpim) January 26, 2020
In the hours since Techamuanvivit posted her story online, Seamless and Grubhub have removed the listing for Kin Khao — and she says that a delivery order she placed Saturday night for 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, which was the earliest available option, was canceled without explanation. It remains unclear where the food pretending to be Kin Khao's was actually coming from.
"If you own a restaurant, especially a popular one, make sure you check these unscrupulous sites to see if they are faking your businesses on there too," Techamuanvivit says. "This is horrid. Reckless. And just horrid."
SFist asked Techamuanvivit if a representative from the company had reached out to her, and she said they haven't as of Sunday afternoon. And, she says, she is planning a lawsuit over this.
"It’s outrageous," says Techamuanvivit, speaking to the Chronicle on Sunday. "They can’t get away with this. They can’t totally fake a restaurant that doesn’t do delivery and go pick up food from, I don’t know, some rat-infested warehouse somewhere and deliver to my guests."
Chicago-based Grubhub has yet to issue a statement, but the situation calls to question how much confirmation and quality control goes on before a restaurant is added to the Grubhub/Seamless platform. And it may be an unfortunate consequence of a company that has gone to some other arguably unscrupulous ends to boost business. As The Verge reported last year, Grubhub — the parent company of Eat24 and MenuPages as well as Seamless — has bought up some 23,000 domain names that resemble those of popular restaurants, then creating faux landing pages for the restaurants promoting delivery from Grubhub. Restaurant owners complained that this was misleading customers into thinking they were ordering directly from the restaurants themselves and bypassing delivery companies.
At the time, Grubhub issued a statement denying any wrongdoing with the practice, which is sometimes called "cybersquatting." "Grubhub has never cybersquatted, which is identified by ICANN as 'generally bad faith registration of another person’s trademark in a domain name,'" the company told The Verge. "As a service to our restaurants, we have created microsites for them as another source of orders and to increase their online brand presence."
Update: Grubhub responded to the Chronicle about the Kin Khao situation, claiming that there was no imposter kitchen — though this has yet to be confirmed — but that Kin Khao was simply a restaurant deemed "in high demand" that had been added to the system without the restaurant's explicit partnership. "Kin Khao was one of these restaurants we added to our marketplace for this initiative to include more restaurants on our platform, and unfortunately, we referenced the incorrect menu for this restaurant. As soon as they reached out to us expressing they’d like to be removed and flagged the incorrect menu, we honored the request," the company said.
This is still a bizarre explanation. Grubhub claims that its own representatives intended to call in takeout orders from Kin Khao, and then send delivery drivers to fetch them, however Kin Khao does not offer takeout and never has — and the menu shown wasn't just outdated, it offered Thai dishes that Kin Khao has never served. It is also unclear how long Kin Khao had been on the system, and if people had received fake Kin Khao deliveries from some other entity.
Meanwhile, a new SF restaurant called Happy Khao Thai appeared on the Grubhub platform on Sunday displaying many of the same menu items that the fake Kin Khao had been offering. That listing also appears to have been removed, but it is still searchable on Google.
This “newly added place” has the same menu that was previous listed under “Kin Khao” pic.twitter.com/x2P8MGCwGv— Alex Chen (@oroooo) January 27, 2020
The Chronicle also notes that Techamuanvivit's other SF restaurant, Nari, was listed on competitor site Doordash without Techamuanvivit's knowledge. And that a similar situation with Seamless/Grubhub had occurred recently with popular SoMa sandwich shop Deli Board, with delivery drivers showing up to pick up orders and referencing an incorrect menu.