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Baltimore County executive orders cap on food delivery app fees that restaurateurs say hurt business

Third-party food delivery services will no longer be able to collect more than 15% in commission from restaurant orders in Baltimore County as part of an effort to improve business for local eateries affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

An executive order issued Tuesday by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. slashes the fees that apps like Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats are allowed to take from the total cost of restaurant orders, which are currently as much as 30%.

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The order will last until the end of the county’s state of emergency for the coronavirus pandemic, Olszewski said. It also prohibits the apps from reducing the gratuity paid to drivers in order to comply with the fee cap.

Restaurant proprietors in the county and across the United States have asked customers to delete the apps and order directly to boost sales, as many struggle to keep doors open as fewer people dine out to avoid potentially spreading the virus.

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State and local restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 also have taken a toll, limiting the number of patrons allowed inside a restaurant at any given time while some localities, such as Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County, have banned indoor and outdoor dining altogether.

Local representatives in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County last week introduced legislation capping food delivery fees.

During a news conference Tuesday, Olszewski signaled that while the county is monitoring the testing positivity rate, hospitalizations and other factors on a daily basis, further measures restricting movement in the county likely would not come unless Gov. Larry Hogan issued more restrictions.

He prefers state action, he said, to keep Baltimore-area businesses on the same playing field.

The Dundalk Democrat said that capping third-party fees will help ensure that more of the money patrons pay for food “goes into the pockets of restaurant owners and their staff.”

“So many of our businesses are struggling to survive — businesses that people have poured their entire lives into building,” he said.

Other cities like San Francisco and New York also have moved to cap third-party food delivery fees. GrubHub has launched an online petition to end the commission caps in New York.

Michelle Blackwell, a representative with Uber Eats, told a Baltimore Sun reporter who asked about commission caps in Baltimore City last week that the company drives demand to independent, local restaurants.

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