Morning Consult: After a Year in Washington, Food Delivery Apps Strategize for Battles Ahead

April 1, 2021 Media

In the past year, as restaurants closed their doors to diners during the pandemic and became more reliant on the delivery apps that used to provide a sliver of their annual sales, Silicon Valley’s venture capital-backed food delivery darlings established roots in Washington.

In April 2020, DoorDash Inc. hired its first outside lobbying firm and then brought on a second and third firm before the end of the year, per congressional lobbying disclosures. Postmates Inc., prior to its December 2020 acquisition by Uber Technologies Inc., ratcheted up its lobbying efforts by hiring a second firm for the first time in three years and upping its typical budget of $30,000 per quarter to $110,000 that was spent in the last quarter of 2020. And GrubHub Inc. also brought on its first outside lobbying firm, The Glover Park Group, at the end of 2020.

But efforts to grow their influence in Washington could come to a halt if anti-monopoly advocates have anything to say about it.

“There are so many reasons that the relationship between restaurants and these delivery apps is bad,” said Moe Tkacik, a senior fellow at the anti-monopoly group American Economic Liberties Project.

In August, the American Sustainable Business Council, the American Economic Liberties Project and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance launched a campaign, titled “Protect Our Restaurants,” that called on the FTC to investigate the four food delivery app companies and their treatment of restaurants.

So far, they’re making progress. Representatives from the American Economic Liberties Project said they met with several FTC commissioners in the fall, including former Chairman Joe Simons (R); current acting Chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter (D); Commissioner Rohit Chopra (D), who has been nominated to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and current Commissioner Noah Phillips (R).