Cincinnati Caps Third-Party Food Delivery Fees

Delivery apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash can only charge restaurants 15% for their services

On Thursday, Cincinnati City Council approved legislation to limit the amount third parties can charge restaurants located within the city for delivering food. The fee those third-party operators like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash can charge? No more than 15% of the total food cost.

The legislation, which was introduced and championed by council member P.G. Sittenfeld, goes into effect immediately and lasts for 90 days.

"Our restaurants desperately need a lifeline. This is meaningful legislation that can put real dollars back in their pocket to help them survive," Sittenfeld said at the Thursday council session. "I think it's important that we pass this today." 

Council member Betsy Sundermann was the dissenting opinion and said she disagreed with the ordinance after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's recent lifting of certain restrictions on in-person dining. (Vice Mayor Smitherman and council member Jeff Pastor were excused from that day's session.)

"I don't think this ordinance is needed any longer," she said. "I think it will also result in a lot of citizens of Cincinnati losing a lot of income as the drivers for these companies." 

After Gov. DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health ordered that restaurants and bars shutter their indoor dining spaces to customers to slow the spread of COVID-19, many turned to carry-out and delivery to sustain their cash-flow. And many restaurants felt they were being taken advantage of or unfairly charged by third-party delivery companies during the crisis.

One example locally was chef Jose Salazar (Mita's, Salazar, Goose & Elder), who spoke out and urged customers to support their local restaurants by ordering food for pick-up, rather than through those third-party delivery apps, specifically Uber Eats. 

According to Salazar, Uber Eats had waived the delivery fee for customers during a portion of the pandemic, but not its 30 percent "marketplace fee" for restaurants who use the service. That meant more folks were opting for delivery rather than carry-out because of the discounted rate and convenience, which is in turn was costing the restaurants in the long run.  

"Essentially, not only are they not offering relief, they are actually taking advantage and capitalizing on the situation," Salazar said.

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