If your family is like mine, ordering take out from a favorite local restaurant can be the highlight of any shelter-in-place day.
Allowing restaurants to offer takeout and delivery is even more important for our busy “essential” workers who may not have the time, or energy, to shop
or cook for themselves or their families after, or during, a long workday.
Takeout and delivery also helps keep restaurants afloat and employees on the payroll (even though most operators say volume is way down and that the model
is not sustainable).
One measure that would help would be to cap the high fees restaurants pay delivery services -- such as UberEats, GrubHub and DoorDash -- which significantly
cut into a restaurant’s chance to turn a profit.
Even before the pandemic, third party delivery companies have been frustrating restaurant owners, notes the Massachusetts Restaurant Association
These companies charge up to 30 percent commission on orders. Additional processing fees and special promotions (where the discounts come exclusively
out of the restaurant’s share) often take an additional cut, wiping out a restaurant’s entire margin, or worse.
That really stings at a time when the state’s restaurant industry has lost nearly $1 billion in sales and has laid off approximately 200,000 employees.
Still, many restaurant owners feel they have no choice but to work with these vendors.
“Many people will assume that we are closed or do not offer takeout if they don’t see us listed on these sites,” one Newton restaurateur said. “No matter
how well we promote ourselves, sponsored ads will immediately pop up on Google from GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash, so really we don’t stand a chance
competing with their online marketing techniques.”
Municipalities across the county are stepping in. San Francisco recently imposed a cap
of 15 percent on delivery fees. Similar ordinances have been filed across the country including in New York, Chicago and Providence. The Globe reported
Friday that Boston and Cambridge are also looking at capping commissions.
But last week I asked Devra Bailin, Mayor Fuller’s director of economic development, if Newton would pursue a similar measure. She said Newton’s attorneys
say such legislation is not permitted here.
I don’t understand why Boston and Cambridge might be able to do this, but Newton can’t. Neither does City Council President Susan Albright who told me
over the weekend that she’s looking into this as well.
Another option would be for the state to impose a cap. I’ll be sure to ask State Senators Cindy Creem and Eric Lesser how they feel about the idea when
they join us for a chamber webinar on Wednesday
Register for that event below.
Still waiting for Congress
As of Sunday night, Congress and the White House were reportedly close
to an agreement to pump billions into the SBA's depleted Paycheck Protection Program and disaster relief programs.
But while countless small businesses and nonprofits anxiously hope to have their applications approved in the next round, Bloomberg reports
that multiple publicly traded companies have already received relief through these "small business" programs and that when it comes to distribution
of the PPP funds "Not All States Are Created Equal
Not fair to workers and every other employer
Speaking of the gig economy, Commonwealth published a this noteworthy column
yesterday calling for changes to the laws that exempt GrubHub, Uber and others from providing unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, minimum
wage, and sick days.
Other employers are required to pay for and provide these benefits. So should these companies.
News for self-employed and 1099 workers
Meanwhile, those gig economy workers, self-employed and 1099 workers waiting for their chance
to file an unemployment claims will find out this week what documents they need to prepare to file as part of the federal CARES act.
Rosalin Acosta, the state’s Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development, told me Friday that more information should be published on their website
Acosta previously announced that the online portal for these workers would be ready by April 30. Acosta said the portal development was ahead of schedule
and may ready sooner.
And an unemployment reminder for employers
Meanwhile, Acosta’s department is reminding employers
to file those quarterly wage reports by the standard April 30 deadline. Employers severely impacted by COVID-19 who are not able to file and pay by
April 30 may submit a written request by email for a 60-day extension on company letterhead, specifying how they’ve been impacted by COVID-19.
Introducing our new Shop Local portal
Over the weekend we introduced our new Shop Local portal. This new interactive shop local directory
a continually updated list of local businesses offering gift cards, virtual programs, special offers and more.
The idea is to create a local directory where everyone sheltering in place can still shop local.
If you’re a local business owner in Newton, Needham, Watertown or Wellesley and would like to be added to this directory, just fill out this form.
Thanks to the chamber’s Young Professionals Group for creating this concept.
Don’t forget these
Once again, we’re rolling out another week of chamber zoominars, including the previously mentioned conversation with State Senators Creem and Lesser on
Join us at 11 a.m. this morning for “Staying motivated while working from home” featuring helpful tools and tricks getting your workweek off to the right
And, while this is not a chamber program, at 10 a.m. today Boston Globe business reporter Jon Chesto will be the guest -- and take your questions -- on
Globe zoom webinar. Register for that here.
Stay in touch. Just don’t touch.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber