Regulation of Food Service Delivery

A new City ordinance addresses problems resulting from unauthorized restaurant food delivery.

On August 30, 2021 the Bellingham City Council voted to support a new ordinance prohibiting food delivery platforms from listing restaurants for food delivery without their permission. This carefully targeted ordinance requires that restaurants be active and willing partners in any delivery service. The ordinance will take effect on November 1 of 2021.

Takeout has expanded rapidly during the ongoing COVID emergency due to consumer and restaurant demand, and delivery services have played a large role in this expansion. However, unauthorized listings result in issues that this legislation will address. The main elements of the ordinance include the following:

  • Listings are prohibited without permission from restaurants. Agreements can be electronic.
  • Listings must be removed within 72 hours if a restaurant requests to be removed from a platform.
  • The ordinance takes effect on November 1, 2021, providing restaurants with time to reach agreements with delivery services they wish to engage.

Problems arising from unauthorized listings include:

  • Some restaurants may not offer takeout
  • Some restaurants may not have enough capacity to handle new demand
  • Menus posted on platforms may list menu items that are not available, or at an incorrect price
  • Unauthorized delivery services may fail to maintain food quality during delivery, and delivery times may exceed restaurant standards
  • A restaurant may develop its own delivery program but be forced to compete with delivery platforms listing the restaurant without permission
  • Restaurants may receive bad customer reviews after a poor delivery experience

Bellingham joins other jurisdictions that have passed similar measures. The California Fair Food Delivery Act prohibits this practice statewide, and Seattle recently passed an ordinance with similar provisions. Washington D.C., Denver, and Minneapolis have passed temporary bans on such practices.


Mark Gardner
Legislative Analyst; (360) 778-8204