The Bellingham City Council recently approved a new ordinance prohibiting food delivery services from listing restaurants for food delivery without their permission. The ordinance takes effect on November 1, 2021, and requires that restaurants be active and willing partners in any delivery service.
Takeout has expanded rapidly during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency due to consumer and restaurant demand, and delivery services have played a large role in this expansion. Unauthorized listings create problems that this legislation addresses. The main elements of the new ordinance include:
- Listings are prohibited without permission. Agreements can be electronic;
- If a restaurant decides it wants to be removed from being listed, listings must be removed within 72 hours;
- The ordinance takes effect on November 1, 2021, providing restaurants with time to reach agreements with delivery services they wish to engage.
Council member Hollie Huthman proposed this ordinance after hearing from restaurant owners who were listed on platforms without permission. The City Council approved the ordinance at its August 30, 2021, regular meeting.
“Almost every restaurant owner or manager I’ve spoken with has a story about how an unauthorized listing of their menu on one of these platforms has caused negative impacts to their business,” Huthman said. “These problems have only been exacerbated by the layers of COVID-19 related challenges that restaurants are facing. Delivery services can be incredibly beneficial to a restaurant, if there’s a mutually agreed upon relationship, and that should be the standard practice rather than the exception.”
Problems arising from unauthorized listings include:
- Some restaurants may not offer takeout;
- Some restaurants may not have sufficient capacity to handle new demand;
- Menus posted on platforms may list menu items that are not available, or with 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.
For additional information and a copy of the ordinance visit the City’s Regulation of Food Service Delivery webpage.