In a last-minute addition to the Nov. 17 Kent City Council meeting, the council passed an emergency ordinance, capping food delivery fees from third-party delivery services for restaurants in an effort to mitigate some of the impacts of the state’s new COVID-19 restrictions.
As the second wave of restrictions on dining services was proposed over the weekend, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph said she wanted to find a way to support their local restaurants. One of the things Ralph said she’s seen during the pandemic was Kent residents using food deliveries as a safe way to keep supporting their small businesses.
“Thank you very much council for sending a strong message to all our restaurants in Kent that we support them and want to make sure we do everything we can to help them get through this extremely difficult time,” Ralph said. “I only wish there were other opportunities for other businesses like our gyms and theaters to support them at this time.”
In a move similar to caps enacted in both Seattle and Tacoma during the shutdown, the city will now have a 15% cap on fees that third-party delivery companies charge restaurants for using their services. The cap also protects drivers by not allowing restaurants to take any of the drivers’ compensation. Penalties for violating the ordinance includes a $500 fine.
Burien, Bothell and Bellevue considered similar ordinances this week, according to the city. Councilmember Bill Boyce said he hopes to get more information on if other South King County cities plan to enact a similar ordinance.
The charges to Kent restaurants for using delivery services like Grubhub, Uber Eats and DoorDash have been increased as much as four times the regular fees because of the influx of delivery requests this year, Ralph said.
Kent City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick presented information on the ordinance during the Nov. 17 council meeting. Fitzpatrick pointed out the enormous losses already suffered by dining services in the U.S. this year, and the low profit margins that the industry already has. The web-based food delivery is very convenient for customers and restaurants, Fitzpatrick said, but the exploding market also means higher fees for the restaurants.
“By providing a cap to these services, we both allow the delivery service to make a profit and continue to be utilized by the restaurant business, and we’re also not pricing the business out of this,” Fitzpatrick said. “(The cap) has been the resounding call by the restaurant industry on this issue.”
The ordinance went into effect Saturday, Nov. 21, and goes away if the state passes a similar statute or when the dining restrictions are lifted.