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Albany County Legislature Seeks To Protect Local Restaurants From Third-Party Apps

Food delivery services have been booming during the pandemic. A new law could change how they do business in Albany County.

Composite Image by Dave Lucas

GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash are the most prominent third-party food delivery companies operating in Albany County. The services made great strides during the pandemic, enabling people to order from their favorite restaurants at a time when the spreading coronavirus forced states and counties to impose severe restrictions on eateries.

While internet sales helped keep restaurants in business, there were a few bumps in the road: third-party delivery services often sell a restaurant's products online without the restaurant's permission. Some retailers had to endure long waits to get paid for orders processed by the third-parties. Delivery charges, which ran as high as 30 percent, were unregulated. Albany County in December 2020 capped the fee that third-party apps could charge to deliver food in the county at 15 percent.

Monday night, the Albany County Legislature unanimously passed a restaurant protection law to protect eateries from unfair practices from third-party delivery services. Republican County Legislator Mark Grimm sponsored the measure.

"They've been able to take orders and deliver, without really the restaurants cooperation, or sometimes the restaurants wouldn't even know about this until they were taking orders. So obviously, the idea of some third party that can sell your product without your permission is just not acceptable. So this law will require a written agreement between the restaurant and the third party delivery service, if they want to sell your product online. And we do want to have internet sales. Restaurants depend on the internet sales. So that's a positive thing. But it has to be a fair arrangement, where both parties agree to the terms. And that's what we unanimously approved last night in the Albany County legislature."

Patrick Noonan, chairman of the Lark Street BID, runs El Loco Mexican Cafe.

"Anything that we can do to protect small businesses right now is is greatly appreciated and much needed. We've had to deal with a ton over the last year and a half now, and our jobs've only gotten harder, especially at the small, small business level. You know, this is this is something that was clearly big corporations taking advantage of little guys on Main Street and when we certainly can't survive, when things like that are hampered down on us."

Grimm says restaurant owners complain that any mistake made by third-party delivery companies reflects poorly on them. Not to mention the delivery surcharge.

"I think anything we can do to help restaurants during this difficult time, is something we should be doing. And this is something that fairness demands, so I'm glad to be able to help out restaurants in Albany County."

The new law takes effect in 60 days.

Of the companies in this story, Only DoorDash responded to a request for comment, writing:

“DoorDash was founded to help grow and empower local businesses and we know that each merchant should have the power to make choices affecting their business. We're proud that the odds of staying in business during the pandemic are eight times better for restaurants on DoorDash, and we commend efforts to support local merchants and ensure that they are heard.”

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