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Bill Meant to Force Food Delivery Apps to Get Restaurants’ Approval First 

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Jonathan Burgess co-owns Burgess Brothers with his twin brother Matthew. It is a popular American bistro-slash-barbecue restaurant and food supply company based in Sacramento. Locals treasure them for their delicious waffles; handcrafted gourmet barbecue sauce; sweet and spicy smoked sausages; among other specialties.  

 The African American entrepreneur says small family-owned businesses like his are tempted by what digital food delivery services might offer them: A broader customer base and online advertising on highly trafficked apps.   

 But that exposure comes with a crippling cost.  

“There’s only like a very thin 5% profit margin for most small restaurants. It’s simple math. If you give Uber, Doordash or one of the others a nice chunk of that, it just doesn’t work out for you.”  

Burgess says food delivery services should offer special rates for mom and pop shops that are lower than what they charge chain restaurants. Those corporation-owned eateries typically buy their ingredients wholesale at much lower costs and they can make up for losses on delivery fees by what they make in volume.  

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) has written a bill to address the challenges food delivery apps have posed for small restaurants like Burgess’s across California. When the chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee and Latino Caucus introduced Assembly Bill 2149, the Fair Food Delivery Act in February, she did not know the COVID-19 pandemic would shutter restaurants across California, and around the world, about a month later.  

Now, more than five months since the World Health Organization declared the international health crisis a global pandemic, more Americans than ever, faced with limited dining-out options, are relying on food delivery apps to purchase meals from restaurants. Grubhub, one app-based food delivery service, reports that it has more than 27 million active users and its orders have increased by over 32% over the last year. 

But Gonzales says those large tech companies like Grubhub and its competitors Uber Eats, DoorDash, Postmates and others — all of them earn billions of dollars each year — take advantage of small struggling restaurants when they deliver those eateries’ food without their consent or an agreement.  

“When food delivery companies take advantage of small mom and pop restaurants by delivering their food without permission, it can damage the customer’s experience and the restaurant’s reputation,” Gonzalez said, adding that food delivery companies have created “significant disruption” in the foodservice business.  

If passed, AB 2149 would require all food delivery companies in California to get the “express written consent of a food facility before delivering the business’ food,” according to a statement Gonzalez’s office released.  

This bill will put the power back in the hands of small restaurant owners by ensuring they have agreed to the delivery arrangement beforehand,” Gonzalez continued.  

She says food delivery services sometimes post outdated menus and provide poor service. Both things can harm a restaurant’s reputation, she argues. She also points out that the app-based companies may out-compete restaurants that have their own delivery service. 

In California, there are an estimated 76,201 food and drinking establishments, according to the California Restaurant Association (CRA). The CRA supports AB 2149. Hundreds of those California restaurants are Black-owned. In the Los Angeles area alone, for instance, there are nearly 200 African American-owned restaurants, according to Infatuation, an L.A-based website.  

But Courtney Jensen, who serves as the California executive director of  TechNet, a trade group that represents a number of leading tech companies says there are several problems with Gonzalez’s bill. Among them are the potential “flagrant” violation of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the possibility that putting restrictions on delivery services could reduce the revenue of the same restaurants that the legislation intends to help.  

 Under AB 2149, food delivery services would have to turn over lists of the restaurants’ customers to them.  

 “Some restaurants or other food facilities that may not be required to comply with CCPA would be provided consumer’s personal information,” Jensen told LA Magazine. “By providing personal information to these food facilities, which are not required to comply with CCPA, the privacy rights of California consumers are undercut, as they would have no rights to access, delete, or opt-out of sales of their personal information from these restaurants that either are not required or lack the resources to extend CCPA rights to consumers.” 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco based non-profit that defends civil liberties in the digital space, also opposes the bill. That organization argues that the right of food delivery service companies to operate without formal agreements with restaurants is protected by the Copyright Act, a federal law passed in 1976.  

“AB 2149 is a poorly conceived attempt to hamstring food delivery platforms,” Jensen says.

But Burgess maintains that promoting a third-party restaurant online without that business’s permission or buy-in is wrong.  

“It’s an intrusion. For the sake of decency and full transparency, these companies should get authorization before they advertise someone’s business,” he said. “This is not in the best interest of the restaurant.” 

 

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U.S. Business Leaders Step Up to Fight Inequities in the South

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

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Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr./ NNPA Newswire

Even as the pandemic has laid bare societal inequities that have long eroded the foundation of our democracy, political leaders in Washington and in state capitols are mired in a level of rancor and partisanship not seen since the ideological struggles over the Vietnam War. 

This toxic atmosphere has left them incapable of addressing pressing, yet ingrained issues like the racial wealth gap, the digital divide, and vast inequalities in everything from health care to home ownership.

With COVID-19 still an omnipresent concern and the country’s recovery still very much in jeopardy, individuals, families, and communities – particularly communities of color throughout the South – are struggling to deal with issues that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

From impediments to wealth creation opportunities and a dearth of education and workforce development to a lack of access to reliable broadband, substandard housing, and inadequate political representation, communities of color have suffered an outsized toll during the ongoing public health crisis.

Yet political leaders can’t even agree on basic facts that would allow the nation to implement a coherent national strategy for combatting a pandemic that appears to be entering a new wave amid the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant that is currently ravaging parts of the South.

Against that disillusioning backdrop, there is at least some reason for hope. Moving to fill the vacuum created by the inaction of our political class, a group of business leaders in the technology and investment sectors have embarked on a far-reaching – and perhaps unprecedented – campaign to address the social inequities and systemic racism that has historically plagued our country’s southern communities.

Known as the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI), the campaign was founded by financial technology company PayPal, the investment firm Vista Equity Partners (Vista), and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

SCI was formed to work with local elected officials and advocacy groups to tackle the ubiquitous problems of structural racism and inequalities facing communities of color in six communities throughout the South. SCI notes that these areas – Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., Houston, Texas, Memphis, Tenn., and New Orleans, La., – were chosen in part because they are home to around 50% of the country’s Black population and are where some of the greatest disparities exist.

SCI is aiming to drive long-term change, as outlined by PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, Vista CEO Robert F. Smith and BCG CEO Rich Lesser. 

In Atlanta, for example, SCI is working to bridge the wealth gap that exists among the region’s African-American residents. While there is a strong Black business community in the city, and high levels of Black educational achievement thanks to the regional presence of several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the voice of the Black press, there is still an extremely low level of Black entrepreneurship and business ownership with only 6% of employer firms being Black-owned.

To remedy this disparity, SCI is working with the Southern Economic Advancement Project to create entrepreneurship hubs and accelerator programs to increase the number of minority-owned businesses. The corporations behind SCI are also using their networks to help other companies work with minority-owned supply companies.

In Alabama, SCI is seeking to bridge the massive digital divide in an urban area where 450,000 households are without connection to the internet. In order to tackle the crisis, SCI is leveraging relationships with local schools and libraries to distribute laptops and service vouchers. Another tact SCI is taking is to partner with the owners of multi-unit buildings in low-income neighborhoods to install free public Wi-Fi for residents.

The lack of access to capital is another reason Black communities throughout the South have been traditionally underbanked. In Memphis, where 47% of Black households are underbanked, SCI is partnering with Grameen America to cover the $2 million per year per branch start-up cost to build brick-and-mortar banks in minority communities.

This alone will provide 20,000 women access to more than $250 million per year in financing.

Beyond these initiatives, SCI is partnering with groups like the Greater Houston Partnership and the Urban League of Louisiana to provide in-kind support to improve job outcomes for minority college students, expand access to home financing through partnerships with community development financial institutions, and harness the power of technology to expand health care access in underserved urban and rural neighborhoods.

The issues facing these communities throughout the South are not new nor will they be fixed overnight.

Fortunately, SCI is taking a long-term approach that is focused on getting to the root of structural racism in the United States and creating a more just and equitable country for every American.

A once-in-a-century pandemic and a social justice movement not seen since the 1960s were not enough to break the malaise and rancorous partisanship in Washington. Fortunately, corporate leaders are stepping up and partnering with local advocates and non-profit groups to fix the problem of systemic injustice in the U.S.

We, therefore, salute and welcome the transformative commitments of the Southern Communities Initiative (SCI). There is no time to delay, because as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so accurately said, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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