Toronto, Ontario mayor John Tory is considering imposing a cap on the commission fees third-party delivery services like DoorDash charge restaurants. He has said he will impose an emergency, temporary cap on those fees “if his emergency powers allow him,” according to an interview with Canada-based publication The Star.
Tory’s words come shortly after San Francisco, CA imposed its own emergency order last week, mandating that delivery services must cap restaurant commission fees at 15 percent if they want to continue doing business in that city. (Delivery services typically charge around 30 percent per transaction.) For now, that’s a temporary order, meant to assist restaurants struggling with dining room closures as residents shelter in place.
Unfortunately for Tory and Toronto restaurants, imposing a similar measure might be more of an uphill battle. Speaking to The Star, the mayor said that’s at least what “preliminary feedback from city legal suggests.”
So in the meantime, Tory is trying other tactics — including reaching out to the delivery services themselves. At the end of last week, he also left the following tweet, directed at those services:
Not surprisingly, delivery companies are defending their stance on commission fees, according to The Star. How long they can keep that up is another matter, because Toronto isn’t the only city considering potential commission fee caps. Last week, Eater pointed out that elected officials in NYC are asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to issue an emergency order similar to the one in San Francisco. Others are urging the same, including council member Mark Gjonaj, who previously introduced legislation around commission fee caps.
There’s no guarantee a measure will pass in Toronto, NYC, or any other place at this point. Even if they do, emergency caps are a surface-level fix to a much deeper problem around the amount of power food delivery services have over the livelihoods of restaurants. For many (most) businesses, offering delivery via DoorDash et al is still cheaper than trying to manage the logistics and driver fleet oneself.
That doesn’t negate the fact that charging a restaurant 30 percent of each transaction practically annihilates already-thin restaurant profit margins. Third-party services were also the subject of (yet another) controversy recently when a new lawsuit emerged, alleging Grubhub, DoorDash, and others are using their market power to push menu prices higher during the pandemic.
Finally, there is growing evidence that a delivery strategy in the midst of a pandemic won’t be enough to save restaurants.
Temporary caps in the wake of this unprecedented restaurant industry fallout are fine for now. But until we start addressing some of the fundamental flaws with the inherently greedy — not to mention unprofitable — third-party delivery model, the problems will proliferate, pandemic or no. Restaurants and their hourly workers will shoulder the bulk of those burdens.