WREG uncovers restaurants operating illegally on delivery apps

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s now easier than ever to get food brought to your door thanks to modern technology.

Apps can get you food delivered from some of your favorite restaurants or you can try a place you may never have heard of, but as WREG found out, your meal might not be coming from a kitchen you hoped for — or one that’s even operating legally.

Many of the listed restaurants on Uber Eats or Bite Squad you may recognize from eating there in person, but some may be new.

“Ordering from Uber Eats, I’ve never had a problem with it,” said a Memphian who wanted to be referred to as Mick Jones.

Jones orders from Uber Eats a couple times a week.

Recently, he was craving Italian.

“Bellissimo Italian popped up and we looked at the website and it looked all prim and nice, and you know, appetizing.”

Its website shows dishes from pasta to lasagna. So Jones put in an order and was told his food would be there in no more than 45 minutes. But the wait time kept getting longer and longer.

Jones said he started checking Yelp reviews, which weren’t positive. They mentioned getting hamburger buns as sides, low quality and cold food, long waits and one calling it “disgusting and pathetic.”

Jones decided to go see for himself what was going on and arrived to a storefront on Summer Avenue.

It has ExpoDine written on the front along with four different restaurant titles: 901 Tacos, Touch of the South, KC BarbeQue and Bellissimo Italian.

It’s not a place to dine in, but where food is cooked to go out.

”There’s this lady in this kitchen area without any gloves on, no real like official, nothing, she was just wearing casual clothes, looking frantic as hell trying to get these to-go boxes in a bag.”

Jones says there was a man yelling at her and a little girl standing nearby.

“Immediately, I was like, ‘This ain’t right.’”

He said he told them to keep the food and refund him.

He says his Uber Eats driver was also there waiting. They talked outside about the odd experience.

“She said she was standing there and in her confusion was watching this lady eat the food she was preparing into these containers and licking her fingers, no washing of hands, and really kind of grossed her out.”

Grossed out and disappointed, he left his own complaint.

We found all four of the listed restaurants are available for delivery on Uber Eats or Bite Squad.

We ordered from the restaurant Bellissimo on Uber Eats to see what we’d get. To be fair, it came in a timely manner and was decent quality.

But when we dug into the parent company ExpoDINE LLC, we found they don’t have an active business license with the state.

The Secretary of State told us ExpoDine filed one last October but missed their first report that was due this April. He said there’s been no evidence the business tried to reinstate it.

We also couldn’t find a required permit from the health department for the company or any of the restaurants. According to the health department, any facility selling or preparing food is required to have one.

“It’s very important because that way the public knows they’re receiving a product that should feel safe,” said Casia Smith Alexander, manager of environmental health. “At least we feel by permitting the facility, that they are in a place that’s providing something that’s safe, that’s regulatory.”

So how has Expodine been able to sell hundreds of orders of foods?

According to Uber Eats, they have a qualification process in place to verify a restaurant before partnering with them. They wouldn’t expand on what that process is.

Other restaurants told us they don’t remember having to provide any proof of permits or licensing, but there are meal and safety standards you agree to when signing up.

Their community guidelines say they’ll revoke a business’ access if they don’t maintain valid restaurant licenses or permits. It’s something we uncovered taking place.

Uber Eats released a statement that says, “These are very concerning allegations. We’ve removed these restaurants’ access to the app pending investigation.”

We went to the business to get their side of the story. The employee working referred us to the owner.

We left multiple voicemails for him, went to listed addresses for him, and had the employee give him WREG’s Bridget Chapman’s number, but we’ve had no luck.

After we brought our findings to the health department, they sent the business a closure letter. That means they need to stop operations immediately.

County officials say customers can always ask businesses if they’re permitted or look online, but sometimes it’s best to check out the conditions in person.

“Yelp is now a big go-to when we’re ordering from somewhere we’ve never heard of or has no reputation of any kind,” said Jones.

He said he hopes he never deals with an experience like that again.

We reached out to Bite Squad several times for a comment but did not hear back. The restaurants still show up on their app, but it’s not clear if they’re still operating.