By Tim Kalinowski on January 14, 2021.
Lethbridge city council passed a motion calling on the provincial government to cap the fees food delivery apps like Skip The Dishes and UberEats can charge restaurants at 15 per cent of the total price of purchase.
Deputy Mayor Rob Miyashiro sponsored the motion, which passed 7-1 in favour, during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
While not binding on the provincial government, or on a private consumer industry, Miyashiro said passing the motion represented a strong gesture of support for local restaurant owners who are suffering under COVID-19 lockdowns because they cannot serve food within their own establishments at the moment. These food delivery apps can sometimes charge as much as 30 per cent of the total price of the value of the order for delivery service, explained Miyashiro.
“I think the fact that the vote went the way that it did,” he said, “it shows council fully supports the concept of us advocating to the province to lower that service fee to restaurants who has these food deliveries. It makes total sense.”
Miyashiro went on to say that food delivery apps were cutting into local business before COVID-19, but he was afraid now that people have gotten used to these types of apps due to public health restrictions keeping them from going out to eat that it will present a longer term problem to the viability of the restaurant industry in Lethbridge and elsewhere.
“And now the restaurant, because they don’t have people in the seats, they are still on there because they need to attract people to the restaurant somehow, and maybe if they can educate people, ‘Hey, I’m not making any money.’ I think the restaurant industry hasn’t been great at advocating for itself on the issue, but now people need to know.”
Miyashiro acknowledged these delivery services do generally employ and pay local drivers, and during this time of economic layoffs and hardship many have looked for supplemental income.
“That is an unintended consequence (of this motion),” he explained. “I don’t want ill will from them at all, but if they can still keep their jobs and the big corporations are not making as much money that’s a good thing too. If more of that money can stay in Lethbridge, that’s what we want.”
Miyashiro acknowledged it is generally local users of the app which drive demand for restaurants to adopt it, and he felt that awareness component must also be addressed as well.
“We need to help people change their attitudes,” he acknowledged.
Prior to passing the motion, council debated adopting an amendment, championed by Coun. Joe Mauro, which would have also called on the provincial government to ease public health restrictions to allow for limited numbers of in-restaurant dining again. This amendment was defeated.
Miyashiro, who voted against Mauro’s amendment, said the intent of his motion was not to encourage a relaxing of necessary and vital public health restrictions, but to try to ensure local restaurants who abided by these restrictions are not losing out on extra money they should be receiving when selling their own product because of high billing charges levied by the delivery app services.
“For one of my colleagues to say, ‘Well, let’s just get them to re-open the restaurants’– well, that is only part of it,” stated Miyashiro. “We know COVID is not going away. We know when we lower restrictions it (leads to) incidents of infections. I don’t even know what to say about that. I think it is ridiculous.”
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