Legal Sea Foods is the latest restaurant to bring legal action against a third-party delivery service for unauthorized use. The Boston-based company filed a $1 million lawsuit against DoorDash in March for delivering takeout from the chain without its permission. This is the second headline-grabbing suit against DoorDash, which faced litigation last fall from In-N-Out Burger for unauthorized resale of its food.
It is something the industry will continue to face, says David Matthews, executive vice president and general counsel at the National Restaurant Association. The trouble, he says, is the impact delivery can have to brands. “Any issue with the quality of the product, consumers look to the restaurant, not the service.”
So the NRA is taking a proactive approach to these booming services, says Matthews. “The best way to handle [the issue is] to discuss standards versus litigate when problems come up,” he says. The NRA currently is talking with some of these deliverers to develop voluntary standards that will address issues upfront, such as unauthorized use of intellectual property (logos and images), food safety and food quality.
Allowing restaurants to opt out also is key. While most services have been good about removing a restaurant’s information when asked, says Matthews, some operators have found it difficult to reach a human being at these virtual companies. Once standards are in place, he says—and services voluntarily agree to them—the technology will be a little less disruptive to business.