Rhode Island’s Proposed Bill Would Ban Delivery Services From Listing Non-Partnered Restaurants

Rhode Island legislators have introduced a bill that would ban the likes of Grubhub, DoorDash, and Postmates from listing non-partnered restaurants on their sites without prior written consent, according to Restaurant Dive.

The bill was scheduled for consideration on Tuesday evening. If passed into law, food delivery services would be fined a civil penalty of up to $1,000 each day they were not in compliance. Restaurants would also be able to bring legal action against the delivery service.

According to WPRI Eyewitness News, the bill came about when the Rhode Island Hospitality Association (RIHA) approached House Judiciary Committee Chairman Robert Craven for solutions to combat third-party delivery sites’ controversial practice of listing non-partnered restaurants without their knowledge or consent.

DoorDash, Postmates, and Grubhub all follow this practice, arguing that it helps local businesses attract more customers, and at a cheaper price point, since non-partnered restaurants don’t pay a commission fee for orders. 

To put it lightly, restaurants don’t necessarily see the practice as beneficial. The recent showdown between Grubhub and San Francisco restaurant Kin Khao resurfaced the point that restaurants’ reputations (and therefore, business) can suffer when a third-party site promises customers delivery and/or pickup orders the restaurant can’t actually fulfill. Case in point: Kin Khao is a Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant. It’s food is meant to be experienced in the actual restaurant, not from a plastic takeout box. It was listed on Grubhub’s site without the owner’s knowledge or consent, and thanks to a technical mix up with another Grubhub restaurant, customers were led to believe Kin Khao would deliver.

That’s one example among many, and more restaurants are getting vocal about their feelings on the issue. “If we don’t know that the food is traveling 20 or 30 minutes out to a customer, we can’t prepare it accordingly,” one owner told WPRI. “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.”

The RIHA said it has received multiple complaints over the last year from Rhode Island restaurants that have been listed to third-party delivery sites without their knowledge or consent.

If the proposed ban goes into effect, other cities and states could follow with similar legislation, most likely major metropolises like San Francisco and New York, which are already cracking down on the Wild West tactics of third-party food delivery.