Uber today announced Eat Local, a campaign the company says will support independent restaurants financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the Eat Local package, Uber will donate $4.5 million to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which will in turn distribute financial assistance to U.S. restaurants facing COVID-19-related challenges. Restaurants must be on the Uber Eats and/or Postmates platforms to be eligible.
According to the LISC website, the applications process for grants opens on Feb. 16. The grant program will offer to help restaurants meet certain expenses, such as payroll, rent, utilities, outstanding debts to vendors, and upgrading technology systems.
Restaurants must have been active on Uber Eats or Postmates since Jan. 1, 2021 in order to be eligible for the grant. Businesses must also have less than five locations and not be affiliated with a national brand. (The full list of eligibility requirements is on LISC’s site.)
In keeping with earlier relief efforts from 2020, Uber’s Eat Local package also includes waived and reduced fees for restaurants around restaurant pickup orders and for orders placed via a restaurant’s own website but delivered by Uber Eats. Restaurants can get daily payouts instead of the standard weekly ones, and Uber will also continue matching donations made by customers via the Eats app’s Restaurant Contribution feature.
Uber (and newly acquired Postmates) along with Grubhub and DoorDash first began offering relief packages for restaurants back in March 2020, when shelter-in-place mandates first went into effect in the U.S. Since then, these services have launched various grant programs and assistance efforts, including Grubhub’s Winterization Grant and DoorDash’s ongoing Main Street Strong program.
All of these efforts go some ways towards helping small and independent restaurants, which have been most damaged by the pandemic. What remains unclear is how much grants and relief efforts help when stacked up against the high commission fees third-party delivery service continue to charge these smaller restaurants. That factor remains likely to be a point of heated debate long after the worst parts of the pandemic have subsided.