Coronavirus update: DC eyes capping food delivery app commissions at 15% to help eateries

Third-party food delivery apps, such as Grubhub and Uber Eats, could see their commissions capped at 15% under a new bill being considered by the D.C. Council.

“Restaurants are trying to eke out some income, and are finding that where third party delivery is involved, that all of the restaurants profit is being eaten up by the commission,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said at a Monday news conference with Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Current commissions are around 30%, not including processing fees.

Seattle and San Francisco have adopted similar legislation. New York City is eyeing legislation that would cap commissions at 10%.

The move follows pleas from local restaurants that customers delete food delivery apps and order from restaurants directly instead.

“Delete every food delivery app that you have on your phone whether it’s Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub, whatever it is, they’re killing restaurants,” said chef Ashish Alfred, owner of Duck Duck Goose and George’s Chophouse in Bethesda and Duck Duck Goose in Baltimore.

There has been pushback from third-party delivery companies. They claim that capping commission fees will result in higher costs to customers and reduced pay for delivery workers.

Mendelson disagreed.

“I don’t know that it would increase the cost to consumers unless consumers are being asked to pay for the commission,” he said. “The concern here is that restaurants, which are barely surviving because of the shutdown, are struggling with a lifeline that they can sell meals on a carry -out or delivery basis. And as I indicated, what we’re finding is that the third-party delivery services are charging commissions that wipe out any profit to the restaurant would receive from that order.”

“Nothing against the services, but the delivery services are making matters no better and, arguably, worse for these restaurants, when our intent is to try to make it a little bit better for the restaurants,” Mendelson said.

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said: “We support efforts to help the hospitality industry, which is why we’ve focused the majority of our efforts on driving demand to independent local restaurants, which we know is a key concern of our partners during these unprecedented times.  Regulating the commissions that fund our marketplace—particularly during these unprecedented times—would force us to alter the way we do business, set a far-reaching precedent in a highly competitive market, and could ultimately hurt those that we’re trying to help the most: customers, small businesses and delivery people.”

The D.C. Council legislation also includes a proposal dealing with business interruption insurance, where a business has an insurance policy that includes business interruption.

“This legislation would say that that business interruption includes where a business has been closed because of a mayoral order related to the public health emergency,” Mendelson said.

More Coronavirus News

Racine files first price gouging suit

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced his first price-gouging lawsuit Monday after lambasting those looking to make a buck by taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic last week.

The suit alleged that Helen Mart, a convenience store in Ward 7, jacked up Clorox Bleach prices by 200% — charging $12.99 for 121 oz. bottles, when it’s $4.29 from other District retailers.

“Price gouging in a time of a public health emergency is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General will enforce the law against stores like Helen Mart that flatly refuse to adhere to a cease and desist letter that it received from my office,” Racine said in a release.

“Residents who believe they are being overcharged should contact OAG. My office will file lawsuits to stop retailers from taking advantage of consumers’ urgent health needs during this crisis.”

The penalty for price gouging in D.C. is $5,000 per violation.

Coronavirus cases

The number of coronavirus cases continued its steady rise Monday with 154 new cases, for a total of 5,170 in the District. There were also seven more deaths, for a total of 258.

The District has yet to see a sustained decrease in coronavirus cases.

There have been increased rates of infection in two particular neighborhoods: Columbia Heights and 16th Street Heights.

Click to enlarge.

Coronavirus infection disparities

D.C. Health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt raised the alarm at Monday’s news conference about pediatric cases of coronavirus, as well as disparities in race and ethnicity.

“The disparities that we are seeing here is nearly half of the cases of our infants who are positive are occurring in the Hispanic and Latino population,” Nesbitt said. “So that becomes of concern to us, as we’ve talked about a bit last week, about the risk of household contacts being a significant contributor to our ongoing transmission in the District.”

She also gave a numerical breakdown of cases:

“The Hispanic, Latino population has about 1,200 cases per 100,000,” Nesbitt said. “Whereas African Americans have 820 cases per 100,000. And whites have 175 cases per 100,000.”

“So the disparities in the impact to the Hispanic and Latino and African American and black communities are stark in our city and have raised again, some of the things that we need to be more attentive around.”

She added that while 48 pregnant women have been diagnosed with coronavirus, the babies did not test positive after they were born.

Symptoms to look for

Nesbitt outlined coronavirus symptoms to look out for. They include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Sore throat
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing
  • Muscle pain

Symptoms in children are similar, but Nesbitt said they tend to be more mild. They include:

  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough

Headache, sore throat, vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported, according to Nesbitt.

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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