Contact 2 gets answers for St. Louis restaurants upset with startup company

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Medina Mediterranean Grill owner Ibrahim Ead is always looking to sauce up his business. That’s what initially intrigued him about St. Louis startup OPER.

"They would basically send the order to us, we would have the order ready, and you could come in and skip the line,” Ead said.

OPER is a mobile ordering and payment platform. In 2015, CEO David Laiderman appeared on Fox 2 News to explain how OPER works. People download the app, create an account, and load money onto it. They can then place and pay for their orders at participating restaurants while also earning rewards.

Medina Mediterranean Grill was one of nearly 150 St. Louis area restaurants using OPER at one point.

“The agreement was we would be reimbursed 100 percent of the sale,” Ead said.

OPER was attractive to restaurants because they didn’t have to pay processing fees for orders placed through the app. OPER would then send restaurants the money they were owed for the orders they filled. But Ead said his restaurant stopped receiving those payments in July.

“After I found out that we weren’t getting reimbursed for anything and attempted to contact them, and nobody responded, I just unplugged it,” Ead said. “Thirty minutes later, somebody called us up and was like, ‘You’re off line, is everything ok?’ We explained the situation. They said, ‘Ok, we’ll have somebody contact you.’ And nothing. Nobody’s ever contacted us.”

That’s when Ead reached out to Contact 2. Fox 2's Mike Colombo went to the T-Rex start-up incubator in downtown St. Louis where OPER’s office was located. A T-Rex representative told Colombo OPER ended its membership and moved out in July. Colombo reached out to other area restaurants who used OPER. Some told him they believed they were still owed money, others said their accounts were made whole.

“I don’t believe we’re ever going to get that money back, to be honest. If they’re in a hole or whatever. But I would’ve liked some transparency,” Ead said.

Three months after the Contact 2 investigation started, it now appears there is a path restaurants and app users can take to get their money back from OPER. Mike Colombo tracked down Laiderman. Just this week, Laiderman shared the letters going out to restaurants and customers detailing the refund process.

In them, Laiderman explains the company essentially ran out money for this venture. While the OPER app is officially shutting down November 15, the company behind it is still in business.

Which leads us to one of the interesting refund options OPER is offering restaurants. OPER will double the amount it owes a restaurant and re-invest that money into OPER. It’s an offer we know at least one St. Louis restaurant owner won’t consider.