Meal delivery apps like Grubhub and UberEats will have to get their act together in Seattle, which has enacted one of the country’s strictest laws to target practices like the use of non-approved menus and price gouging.

Over the course of the last two years, the use of third-party meal delivery apps has skyrocketed. Every restaurant that wanted to keep going through the pandemic had to develop a to-go menu. But many found that their decisions about what they could continue to serve didn’t seem to have much effect on what guests were ordering.

Grubhub specifically is generally the culprit – the app will use any menu it can find for a restaurant to build its own online inventory for restaurants, without checking if that menu is still on offer at all. Grubhub also does not allow restaurants to opt out of their service – it will take orders for them and send drivers to pick them up, and if that food isn’t ready, the customers aren’t told that it’s the app’s fault for making false promises of service. In a review-driven field like food service, restaurants can’t afford to disappoint.

In 2020, Seattle addressed price-gouging via meal delivery apps by imposing a 15% cap on the commission that apps can charge to deliver food. And effective September 15, 2021, all meal-delivery apps will be required to have written consent from any restaurant they list, including approval of the menu they post for them.

Any delivery service found to be taking orders for a restaurant that has not approved their menu being listed can now be fined $250 per violation. That means $250 per order placed via the app. Revenue from these fines will go toward supporting very small restaurants (fewer than five employees) in Seattle and King County.

Meal delivery apps profit as a middle-man between restaurants and diners and take money from both sides of the equation. The new law will force them to behave a little more responsibly.

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