Bill would ban food delivery apps from using restaurant names without consent

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Hospitality Association (RIHA) said its members are fed up with third-party delivery apps like GrubHub and DoorDash using their restaurant names without their knowledge or consent.

RIHA President Dale Venturini said they’ve received multiple complaints about the tactic from Rhode Island eateries in the last year.

“Once the restaurant discovers that they are on the website – without their permission – they can request removal, however, several of our members have had to make multiple requests for this to happen,” Venturini told Eyewitness News in an email. “Even if you get your name off one site, another service can put you on.”

It’s exactly what happened to Rebelle Artisan Bagels. Owner Milena Pagan said DoorDash listed her business on its site without her consent in 2018. She asked to be removed and was, only to find it pop up on GrubHub in January without her permission.

“If we don’t know that the food is traveling 20 or 30 minutes out to a customer, we can’t prepare it accordingly,” she said. “If there’s a mistake made, we can’t rectify it. So for us, it’s about having control of the customer experience to make sure it’s of the quality and caliber that we want.”

GottaQ Smokehouse in Cumberland said they’ve had to ask to be removed from third-party delivery sites three separate times.

The issue prompted RIHA to approach House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Craven, a North Kingstown Democrat, with an idea to help curb the problem.

Craven’s since introduced a bill that would “prohibit third-party delivery services from using any likeness or intellectual property of a merchant without written consent.”

“If [restaurants] have concerns about what happens to that food and how it’s delivered and who’s taking responsibility, I think you better listen to that,” Craven said. “Because there’s nothing worse than a bad meal.”

GrubHub and DoorDash told Eyewitness News their priority is helping local businesses attract and maintain customers. Restaurants who are not officially affiliated with the delivery apps do not have to pay a fee; the cost is passed on to the customer instead.

A spokesperson for GrubHub said: “Our mission since we were founded in 2004 has been to connect hungry diners with great, local restaurants and drive more takeout orders to restaurants. We’re fully committed to working with local policymakers on topics related to our business.”

A DoorDash spokesperson told Eyewitness News in a statement: “We support legislation that ensures merchants have the ability to interact with us however they wish, and we’ve found that this is the best way to empower those businesses and the local economies in which they operate.”

The bill was scheduled for consideration before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday evening. If passed into law, those found in violation would have to pay a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each day they’re not in compliance. The bill would also allow restaurants to bring legal action against the delivery app.

RIHA said it’s aware of other states that have considered similar bills but does not believe any have passed them into law yet.