Howlin’ Ray’s is incredibly popular. The Nashville-style hot chicken spot in Chinatown has for years now been sporting hours-long lines just to get in and enjoy its spicy sandwiches, plates, and fries, but over the weekend the crew took it to a whole other level when they nearly broke food delivery app Postmates.
The chaos came when Howlin’ partnered with Postmates and rapper Post Malone on a collaboration delivery event to bring hot sandwiches right to fans’ front door. Hundreds and hundreds of orders poured in by the second when the event commenced on Thursday, causing drivers to cancel orders, traffic to back up, and the kitchen to become practically overwhelmed with sandwich needs. The chaos led Postmates and Howlin’ Ray’s to shut the whole thing down early.
Some fans took to social media to show their displeasure, and both Postmates and Howlin’ have been working to make things right with those affected. The Postmates Instagram post announcing the collaboration event has become a sounding board for more than 600 fans to (mostly) voice their displeasure at how things went.
Sources inside Howlin’ Ray’s tell Eater that the restaurant was receiving requests for hundreds of sandwiches every minute. Despite beefing up staff with dozens of members slated to handle the pressure, the restaurant was still forced to toggle their orders on and off incrementally throughout Thursday just to try to keep up with the surging demand. Meanwhile, Postmates drivers with orders to fulfill began queuing up in the streets around the offsite kitchen, clogging side streets. Many drivers ultimately cancelled their pick-ups because of the snarled traffic.
“The city was set to shut us down,” explained Howlin’ Ray’s co-owner Amanda Zone in a notice sent out to customers on Friday, when the restaurant again became overwhelmed with demand. Postmates and Howlin’ Ray’s cancelled the rest of the planned pop up by midday, with Postmates saying on its social media feed that “The Howlin’ Ray’s pop up is officially closed due to overwhelming demand. LA, we appreciate you.”
On Twitter, Amanda Zone apologized for the shut down, the frustrated fans, and any lost orders, saying “We love you we are humbled” and that it broke their heart to have to give up on the anticipated promotion. “The pop up is no longer sustainable,” she added in the Twitter thread.
1. OK ALL it BREAKS my heart 2 do this but JZ and I had 2 make the call bc after discussing w the @postmates team we all agree that the pop up is no longer sustainable bc even w limiting the orders heavily (only turning on app for 2-3 mins at a time), the drivers are...— HOWLIN' RAY'S (@howlinrays) December 13, 2019
Chef/co-owner Johnny Ray Zone tells Eater that the Chinatown location tried throughout the weekend to reach out to unsatisfied customers to continue to offer them delivery from that location. The Chinatown shop will also, this week on Wednesday and Thursday only (or until sold out), be making the Ghosty collaboration sandwiches from the pop-up for those who had their orders cancelled on the Postmates app last weekend. The plan is to have a staffer at the front of the line ready to expedite sandwiches for anyone who can show proof of a cancelled/undelivered order.
All in all, it’s a great lesson and I’m glad we did it, because it makes me so proud of the staff to see their growth. We’re honored that so much of the city stands behind us, even with us closing early.
Reached for comment, Postmates reps offered the below, saying instead that the event was “sold out” due to high demand, not cancelled:
The response to the Howlin Ray’s limited-edition menu on Postmates was incredible! People love Howlin’ Ray’s so much that we were completely sold out as of Friday evening. Both the Howlin Ray’s and Postmates teams did a great job on the ground managing the incredibly high demand. For those in LA who were unable to try out the Ghost Malone due to the demand, they will soon be receiving a Postmate code for their next Postmate order.
It was rumored over the weekend that Postmates was even talking about pushing overnight updates to the app to solve some of the technical issues that surfaced during the slammed event; Postmates denies that they made any such updates.