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Chicago restaurateurs want tighter regulations around your next delivery

Chicago’s restaurant landscape is becoming more competitive and a powerful organization representing some owners wants the city to take a closer look at how delivery providers like Grubhub and Uber Eats handle your food.

The Illinois Restaurant Association is pushing Chicago aldermen for new regulations around food delivery conditions—including food handling and car cleanliness—setting up a potential battle with delivery upstarts like Uber, DoorDash, Grubhub and Postmates.

The restaurateurs group, whose members are irked by delivery providers’ fees that can run up to 30 percent of each food order, is mounting a legislative push in the next two months designed to rein in delivery operators who they see as cutting into their business and their margins. The association, which represents roughly 800 restaurant operators in Chicago, is not seeking relief from the City Council regarding those fees, but ordinances governing cleanliness and food handling would certainly have the effect of leveling the playing field—or chilling competition, depending on one’s point of view. 

The association has discussed potential ordinance language with at least one alderman, according to people familiar with the situation. 

The move for tighter city oversight of the rules surrounding food delivery is part of a broader push by the restaurant association to beat back the incursion of online delivery providers that have disrupted the business. In Springfield, the restaurateurs are discussing legislation—as yet unwritten, according to a source informed of the organization’s strategy—that would emulate a landmark California law, passed in December, designed to force gig-economy companies to treat their workers as employees, rather than contractors. Currently in Illinois, delivery company workers are classified as contractors and are thus not entitled to health benefits, minimum wage and other protections.

Another restaurant association gripe: Food delivery companies once partnered with restaurants to bring them onto their platforms, ensuring accuracy and oversight from the kitchen. But the proliferation of competitors and fight for marketshare has eliminated those protocols, with food delivery providers now adding restaurants to their lineups without restaurant operators’ consent.

“The expansion of services delivering restaurants’ food without their knowledge and consent is also a serious concern,” says Sam Toia, the restaurant association’s CEO. “We look forward to working with all stakeholders to find practical solutions that benefit restaurants and delivery services while keeping consumers safe.” 

A representative for Chicago-based Grubhub said the “vast majority of our orders” come from partnered restaurants. “It’s our aim to bring the best delivery experience possible while balancing the interests of our diners, restaurants and drivers, and complying with all local laws and regulations in connection with our business,” the representative said.

Uber and Lyft have refused to comply with the new California law and the state is already facing a legal challenge from workers who argue the law threatens their ability to make money. 

Currently, there is no language for a statewide bill in Illinois and key unions like the Service Employees International Union say they are not setting this as a priority for the the ongoing Springfield legislative session, which runs through the end of May. 

But the SEIU is monitoring the new California law to see how it progresses.

“We would have to take a hard look at that (California) bill,” says Jerry Morrison, assistant to the president of SEIU Local 1. “We are looking to organize those types of workers.” 

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