As coronavirus continues to spread and municipalities impose curfews and other restrictions, diners are staying home. The result: Local restaurants, most of which are mom-and-pop operations, find their very existence imperiled.
That said, the burgeoning industry of meal-delivery services might provide a lifeline.
Chicago-based Grubhub stepped up to the plate first, closely followed by Uber Eats. Both services have offered assistance to their independent restaurant partners, aiming to ease COVID-19's financial crunch.
In a press conference last Friday, Grubhub announced it will "temporarily suspend collection of up to $100 million in commission payments from impacted independent restaurants nationwide."
Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Portland, and Boston were the only cities mentioned at the press conference and in a subsequent release, but a company spokesperson confirms the initiative will include independent restaurants in Miami.
Though $100 million is a lot of money, suspending collection doesn't mean eliminating fees or forgiving debt. Grubhub will continue to bill participating restaurants for commissions, though the spokesperson was unable to provide details.
This morning, Uber Eats released its own statement and upping the ante. The company is suspending the delivery fees independent restaurants pay across the United States and Canada and launching a marketing campaign to promote delivery from independents (with an emphasis on new clients). Restaurants also may opt to receive daily payouts for food ordered through Uber Eats rather than the standard weekly payout.
“We've heard from restaurants that they're worried about what the health crisis will do to sales and its impact on cash flow and their ability to pay suppliers or employees,” Therese Lim, head of restaurant product at Uber Eats, says in the company's media release. “That's why, from today we'll provide restaurants with the option to receive daily payouts rather than waiting until the end of the week to see revenue from deliveries, which can be even more important as delivery becomes a bigger share of their sales during this time.”
Additionally, Uber Eats has pledged to provide healthcare workers and first responders with more than 300,000 free meals, to be delivered to their places of employment. The company will coordinate that nationwide effort with local and state governments.
Finally, the company is launching a user campaign to drive awareness of “contactless” delivery. That initiative will include guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that orders are properly sealed in tamper-evident packaging, as well as providing drivers with sanitization materials.
The Uber Eats release quotes Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert: “As we enter a time when social distancing is going to be critical, our neighborhood restaurants and businesses will need all the help they can get, as will our residents. We appreciate Uber Eats waiving delivery fees and getting funds to our restaurants as quickly as possible.”