The Seattle City Council approved a law Monday that will require meal-delivery apps to sign agreements with restaurants, rather than listing restaurants on the apps and taking orders without permission.
Council President M. Lorena González, who sponsored the law, said it will protect restaurants, simplify work for delivery-app drivers and provide customers with more reliable service. It will ensure that restaurants can control the “guest experience,” González said.
The vote was 8-0. Mayor Jenny Durkan hasn’t reviewed the law yet to determine whether she’ll sign it or let it become law without her signature, her office said.
Council staff noted the law could result in some restaurants paying delivery fees they’re not paying now, possibly less work for drivers and fewer options for customers.
González said restaurant-industry groups like Seattle Restaurant Alliance supported the measure and labor groups and delivery apps were consulted. The delivery apps Grubhub, Postmates and Uber Eats didn’t immediately comment.
Brianna Megid, a spokesperson for the delivery app DoorDash, said restaurants should have the power to make choices affecting their businesses. DoorDash removes restaurants, when requested, she said.
Under the status quo, delivery apps can use online menus and other information to list restaurants without permission. Restaurants may not even know they’re listed. App drivers place orders on the behalf of customers, who pay the apps’ delivery fees, according to the council.
That won’t be allowed under the new law. There must be agreements, which restaurants can terminate at any time, that authorize the apps to coordinate deliveries.
Under such agreements, which many restaurants already have, restaurants will vet their menus and other information. Customers will use the apps to place orders with the restaurants, which will pay the apps’ delivery fees.
The delivery-app sector has grown in recent years, according to a council staff presentation, with pandemic rules adding momentum.
Listing restaurants on the apps without agreements can cause problems for restaurants, drivers and customers, including incorrect menu items, prices and delivery times, a council staff summary said. When customers encounter errors, they may blame drivers and restaurants, which can lead to bad reviews and lost income.
Seattle’s law will allow the city to penalize apps $250 per violation and will allocate that revenue to support small restaurants.
The law is scheduled to take effect Sept. 15. The council didn’t approve new funding Monday for outreach to restaurants about the law, nor for the city’s finance department, which will enforce it.
“Based on California’s experience following passage of similar legislation,” the apps are expected to mostly comply, the staff summary added.
Seattle’s law is aimed at protecting restaurants, but also could result in less work available for delivery-app drivers, many of whom are people of color, according to a race and social justice assessment by council staff. At the same time, “it will benefit the workers by reducing potential conflict with restaurants,” the assessment said.