- March 13, 2020
David Benstock, a co-owner of Il Ritorno, a modern Italian restaurant in downtown St. Petersburg, has a simple message for mobile app-based delivery platforms including Uber Eats, BiteSquad and DoorDash: You’re not welcome here.
The services take a huge cut out of every order — as much as 30%, the Benstocks say. But that’s not all. “You’re putting your service in someone else’s hands,” says David Benstock, who, along with his wife, Erica, founded Il Ritorno in 2013.
The 34-year-old has high standards. He holds a degree from the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., and also serves as the executive chef at Il Ritorno.
Benstock says Il Ritorno’s dishes should be enjoyed immediately after they are served, not packaged up for what could be a lengthy car ride to a customer’s house.
“Our fresh pasta, you put it in a container, and once it gets home, it's one solid block; it's really hard,” he says. “The only way to not have a solid bar of pasta is to over-sauce it, like putting in twice the amount of sauce, so it's swimming in sauce. … That's a concern of ours.”
However, Benstock says delivery apps are a good fit for other culinary concepts, particularly his next venture, a fast-casual salad restaurant called Greenstock set to open in downtown St. Petersburg on Dec. 9. Greenstock, in keeping with another hospitality trend that’s been picking up steam, will offer walk-up counter service.
Modern diners, Benstock says, “want to be able to order food and have it brought out to them, done. They don't want to have to sit there and wait for someone to come over and take their order. People are impatient these days. It’s getting to the point where they don’t even want to leave their houses.”
He says there will always be a place for full-service fine dining like Il Ritorno — the kind of place where people gather with friends and family to celebrate special occasions — but they’ll be less common.
“There’s a gray area between fast casual and fine dining,” Benstock says. “You're going to see a big decline in that kind of business. People either want it fast, or they want the experience.”
Click below to see how other area restaurants vary their strategies on how to handle the surge of meal delivery.