HAWAIIAN GARDENS, Calif. — Many restaurant owners are relying on third party delivery services to sustain their business after a year of indoor and outdoor dining bans, but some are saying the fees those services charge hurt struggling businesses more than they helped them.
Chuy Perez has been living his dream as the owner of Casa Adelita in Hawaiian Gardens for 25 years, but this year has proved to be especially difficult.
He worked his way up in the restaurant industry, knowing it would all be worth it one day when he’d open his own.
At just 26, he got that chance, finding an abandoned building and investing every dollar he had.
"Since that we are here with my family, my wife, my son, my daughter,” Perez said.
But now, Perez is in the same boat as every other restaurant owner, and his small business — run by a family whose first language is Spanish — wasn’t equipped to switch to takeout and delivery only. He now uses several delivery services, like Uber Eats and Postmates, but said their fees are excessive.
"These companies, they do charge a high rate. [I] Hope that they can reduce that fee so that can help us survive in this bad situation," Perez said.
The City of Hawaiian Gardens decided not to give the third party delivery services a choice. Staff signed an urgency ordinance that put a cap on the fees delivery companies can charge restaurants. Those fees typically vary depending on the company, but it runs anywhere between 15% and 30%.
City Manager Ernie Hernandez said they’re looking for any way to help the struggling businesses.
"We 100% respect private enterprise, but also want to ensure that our restaurants can basically stay afloat with everything that’s going on in the world today without being essentially price gouged by these companies because they don’t have any other alternative," he explained.
Hernandez said they've implemented a 15% cap on delivery fees, and a 5% cap on any other service fee the company may charge.
In the small town that relies almost solely on revenue from a casino that’s been closed for most of the last year, Hernandez said this will also help the city survive devastating shortfalls.
"It’s dual benefit. We can’t provide police and fire services if we don’t have the revenues to do so and we can’t get those revenues if our local businesses don’t thrive, so it’s a vicious cycle," he explained.
For the small business owner with a big dream, it’s emotional. Perez's gratitude for any help runs deeper now than ever before.
"It has been a really, really hard time for us," he said through tears.
A really hard time for a lot of us that also brings about new opportunities to lend a helping hand.