FOLLOWUP: After West Seattle Chamber of Commerce request, city caps third-party restaurant-delivery fees

Last night, we reported on the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce’s letter to the City Council asking for a cap on third-party restaurant delivery fees, noting that other cities have taken similar actions. This afternoon, Mayor Jenny Durkan, City Council President Lorena González, and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold just announced an emergency order to do just that – and more. Here’s the announcement:

Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, Council President M. Lorena González, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold today announced a new Emergency Order to impose a 15 percent commission cap on third-party delivery services. The necessary statewide ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order has caused restaurants to rely solely on delivery and takeout services for revenue, and many restaurants use third-party delivery services to meet the needs of their customers and keep their staff safe. The 15 percent commission cap will remain in place until restaurants are allowed to offer unrestricted dine-in service in the City of Seattle.

“We know that so many of our small businesses are hurting because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that delivery services have been a lifeline for our restaurants during this unprecedented time. Unfortunately, some third-party delivery services are charging exorbitant commission fees, which exacerbates the financial hardship many restaurants are already experiencing,” said Mayor Durkan. “This commission cap will be critical to ensuring that delivery and takeout remain viable options and don’t cause increased financial hardship. At the City, we’re doing everything we can locally to support our small businesses during this unprecedented moment in history. We’ve identified millions of dollars to invest directly in our most vulnerable small businesses and are working with our partners across government and in the private sector to help many who are struggling. With many of our neighborhood restaurants still open, we can support our small businesses by ordering pickup or delivery during this time.”

“Our beloved main street restaurants are reeling from this economic crisis and exorbitant delivery service charges further threaten their ability to weather this storm. Restaurant owners across Seattle have adapted their business models to delivery or takeout only service, resulting in the unemployment of thousands of service industry workers and even thinner margins for these important small businesses. With tight margins, every dollar paid to an app-based delivery service is a dollar taken from our local restaurants, economy and workforce. We know some of these corporations are imposing inflated fees and profiting from this crisis on the backs of our main street. We cannot allow that to happen. This Emergency Order will provide much needed relief and establish a system that is more fair and equitable to our restaurants,” said Council President M. Lorena González.

Councilmember Herbold, representing Seattle’s District 1, thanked the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce for their early advocacy on this issue and recognized that the West Seattle Chamber shared their members’ experiences of these apps unfairly charging local businesses 30 percent on deliveries. The West Seattle Chamber has written that these apps have been “using this opportunity during the COVID-19 challenge to tell consumers that using their services are helping small businesses when the only one benefiting from these programs are these corporations.”

Restricting restaurants to takeout and delivery service disproportionately impacts small, independently-owned or minority-owned businesses that already operate on thin margins, adding to financial pressures in the industry that predate the current public health crisis. Many residents support local restaurants by using third-party, app-based delivery services, and these third-party platforms charge commission to restaurants based on the purchase price. Each service agreement between restaurants and third-party companies varies, but some include commissions that are 30 percent or more of the purchase price. These unregulated charges place an undue burden on small business owners and require some of them to turn over a significant percentage of their badly-needed revenue to a third-party.

To further protect delivery drivers who, as independent contractors, are often shut out of federal unemployment relief, the Emergency Order requires that 100 percent of tips go to the drivers, and it includes provisions to make clear that it is illegal for a third-party platform to reduce driver compensation rates as a result of this order going into effect for the duration of the order.

“Marination and Super Six currently rely on takeout and delivery in order to have an opportunity to survive in this new economic environment. Because so many of these platforms charge such high fees, we have started to handle all takeout and delivery orders in-house. But this commission cap will allow us to transition to a third-party delivery service without facing further financial stressors and allows third-party platforms and restaurants to do what they do best,” said Kamala Saxton, co-owner of Marination and Super Six.

The 15 percent commission cap will take effect immediately and will remain in place until restaurants are allowed to offer unrestricted dine-in service. Violating the 15 percent commission cap is a misdemeanor offense and would be prosecuted by the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. Restaurants who wish to report a violation of the commission cap should call the Seattle Police Department’s non-emergency line at 206-625-5011.

23 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: After West Seattle Chamber of Commerce request, city caps third-party restaurant-delivery fees"

  • Andy Havens April 24, 2020 (4:49 pm)

    Ok, ok, lemme see if I have my West Seattle quarantine crisis comment skills honed:

    Why are they wasting time on this when they should be fixing the bridge!?!?!?

    How’d I do?

    • Truth April 24, 2020 (5:47 pm)

      Because if businesses close they have no revenue to pay for a bridge?  Because people need jobs? Because the city doesn’t deal with one thing at a time.

    • Pilsner April 24, 2020 (5:59 pm)

      7/10. Excellent point. However totally different teams. i wouldn’t trust either division to the able to handle the affairs of the other.

  • Chemist April 24, 2020 (5:43 pm)

    I guess that makes it clear about if delivery apps should tip restaurants workers/share the tip with restaurant staff.  I have seen that topic come up in other forums. The tip goes to the drivers.

    • The Waitress April 24, 2020 (10:03 pm)

      Restaurant staff see 0% tips from all third-party delivery apps (in addition to the restaurant itself getting gouged by fees). Ordering takeout directly from a restaurant is the best way to ensure your favorite local businesses (and their staff) stay afloat.

  • 22blades April 24, 2020 (6:58 pm)

    Well, it was good while it lasted for them. It’s like the biggest recipient of government aid PPP funds was the Ritz-Carlton Hotels and their parent company. Greed knows no bounds.

  • Concerned citizen April 24, 2020 (7:19 pm)

    Hopefully this doesn’t backfire by just having these delivery services leave the market. They aren’t Amazon. They are all operating at pretty significant losses to start with (for the doubters go pull Waitrs 10k), this just drives them into deeper into the red. The letters and platitudes being shared seem to be operating on the assumption that the delivery services are a charity. Restaurants will be worse off without them if they do leave.

    • WSJ April 24, 2020 (9:00 pm)

      You sound like someone justifying paying protection money to the mob. People still want food delivered, and that won’t change. The market will adapt and restaurants were doing plenty of delivery prior to tech companies getting involved. 

  • Sunuva April 24, 2020 (9:17 pm)

    We ordered around $50 worth of food from Peel n Press last night. Tried the order on Uber Eats first and the order came out to over $70! Cancel!! Picked it up ourselves instead and added garlic bread to the order.  Those fees were beyond ridiculous and I’m so glad to hear this new cap will be in place going forward. Our local businesses were absolutely losing money and business before this.

    • Peel and Press April 24, 2020 (10:07 pm)

      I am clearly not a big fan of these companies but in times like this I will give up a reasonable cut to make sure folks have safe options.  30% was not reasonable.  Once we fully open again we will most likely go back to no third party delivery just like before the pandemic. We have no control after it leaves our place and no clue how the handoff interaction reflects on our brand.  Your business means the world to me and thank you for supporting us!

      • Sunuva April 25, 2020 (9:37 am)

        The fees were indeed unreasonable, so I’m glad I had the option to go pick it up instead. We’re so happy you are still able to serve the community! Hopefully this helps people not to get ripped off by the third party services that don’t have the option to pick up themselves.

        • Chuck Jacobs April 25, 2020 (1:45 pm)

          Sunuva -April 24, 2020 (9:17 pm)
          Peel and Press -April 24, 2020 (10:07 pm)

          These two posts encapsulate a perfect example of a free market solution resulting in a satisfactory transaction for both parties and without government involvement. Price controls always lead to stifiling competion as well as poorer service and higher costs. Always.

  • Yma April 24, 2020 (9:21 pm)

    I’d very much like our wonderful small business restaurants to survive. Curbside pick up works. 

  • WSB April 24, 2020 (9:22 pm)

    P&P proprietor Dan Austin is in fact a co-chair of the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, which led on this, so I’m sure he’d appreciate that. We’re hearing this may enable some fully closed restaurants to reopen for takeout/delivery, too.

    • Pelicans April 25, 2020 (1:35 am)

      Great news, and the city’s action was so fast!

  • 1994 April 24, 2020 (9:32 pm)

    So, will more people use these delivery services? Sunuva? Just curious.

    • Sunuva April 25, 2020 (9:33 am)

      Heh. I’m not sure I’m a qualified person to answer for what other people will do. All I can say is that I would have gone through with the Uber Eats order if the fees were half what they were.  I knew there would be a charge but that was truly a shocking amount. At least I had the option to go pick it up myself instead, whereas others may not have that flexibility.

  • Admiral Dude April 24, 2020 (11:51 pm)

    Can someone educate me here, I have never used these services. I have always picked up myself or had the restaurant deliver. Is the price paid by the customer the same when ordering through these services? I always assumed it was an extra charge and the restaurant got the same amount either way; this article makes me believe otherwise. 

  • Honestly April 25, 2020 (6:49 am)

    Well, Mr. Austin, you just bit off the hand that feeds your business right now.  Like usual, the city has taken a knee jerk reaction to make headlines.  Unfortunately, this will be the nail in the coffin for pretty much all restaurants in Seattle.  These services run on very thin margins, there’s no reason to operate in cities that force them to run in the red for those cities.  SMH

    • 22blades April 25, 2020 (9:19 am)

      Somehow, I really doubt that. If their business model can’t sustain the increased revenue of this crisis, how was their business model sustainable without the pandemic? The compensation of the actual delivery drivers is a separate issue. Those costs are fixed (if not equitable).

    • Lagartija Nick April 25, 2020 (10:44 am)

      Where is your evidence that these national (and in some cases international) corporations are running in the red?

      • Mark B April 25, 2020 (8:15 pm)

        Uber and Waitr are both public companies. Look at their 10-Ks. 

  • AdmiralBridge April 25, 2020 (4:35 pm)

    While I love the outcome, wondering why definitive action can’t be taken on the Bridge as quickly as we can on this.  Really puzzling.

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