Hello friends: As some of you may have noticed (perhaps happily) I haven’t been engaging much on Village 14 these days. My life has really be consumed working with businesses and nonprofits though my role in with chamber. Among the things I’m doing is a daily email update on business related matters (you don’t have to be a member to receive them, just sign up here.) Anyway, I thought I’d share today’s main item with you here.
If your family is like mine, ordering take out from a favorite local restaurant can be the highlight of any shelter-in-place day.
Allowing restaurants to offer takeout and delivery is even more important for our busy “essential” workers who may not have the time, or energy, to shop or cook for themselves or their families after, or during, a long workday.
Takeout and delivery also helps keep restaurants afloat and employees on the payroll (even though most operators say volume is way down and that the model is not sustainable).
One measure that would help would be to cap the high fees restaurants pay delivery services — such as UberEats, GrubHub and DoorDash — which significantly cut into a restaurant’s chance to turn a profit.
Even before the pandemic, third party delivery companies have been frustrating restaurant owners, notes the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. These companies charge up to 30 percent commission on orders. Additional processing fees and special promotions (where the discounts come exclusively out of the restaurant’s share) often take an additional cut, wiping out a restaurant’s entire margin, or worse.
That really stings at a time when the state’s restaurant industry has lost nearly $1 billion in sales and has laid off approximately 200,000 employees.
Still, many restaurant owners feel they have no choice but to work with these vendors.
“Many people will assume that we are closed or do not offer takeout if they don’t see us listed on these sites,” one Newton restaurateur said. “No matter how well we promote ourselves, sponsored ads will immediately pop up on Google from GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash, so really we don’t stand a chance competing with their online marketing techniques.”
Municipalities across the county are stepping in. San Francisco recently imposed a cap of 15 percent on delivery fees. Similar ordinances have been filed across the country including in New York, Chicago and Providence. The Globe reported Friday that Boston and Cambridge are also looking at capping commissions.
But last week I asked Devra Bailin, Mayor Fuller’s director of economic development, if Newton would pursue a similar measure. She said Newton’s attorneys say such legislation is not permitted here.
I don’t understand why Boston and Cambridge might be able to do this, but Newton can’t. Neither does City Council President Susan Albright who told me over the weekend that she’s looking into this as well.