Is it illegal to be a middleman for selling online if you are giving the supplier free advertising/customers?


I am looking to finally start an online food ordering service and was wondering what the legalities of the setup were.

I would have an online ordering system for fast food shops. So customers can order from their restaurant online.

I would then sort out getting the order to the restaurant and delivery.

There is no cost for the restaurant and I may bring them more customers and provide free advertising. If they requested I would take the menu off the site.

Is this ok to do? I am in the UK if that matters.



asked Jan 13 '11 at 05:38
116 points
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  • Do you mean a service *like* (who I notice have recently done some TV advertising)? – Rowland Shaw 13 years ago
  • Yeah, but they have a different business model. They charge the restaurant 10% of an order and put an sms printer in the shop. Which means they would have to ask the restaurant permission. – Ddd 13 years ago

3 Answers


I don't know about UK laws.

In many parts of the US, if you are going to be dealing with foods, you need a special license/certificate from the locality you're operating in.

Regarding just acting as a food shuttle service, there are no issues here with that sort of business. I would only caution you that over the years we have seen many many companies like that come and go. They seem to only be feasible in areas with very high population densities (like New York), and even then the margins are slim.

answered Mar 14 '11 at 23:09
Brian Karas
3,407 points


I have seen companies operate similar schemes in the past, although without insider knowledge, it would be difficult to know how much integration there was with the associated takeaways.

Some brief case studies:

  1. There was a company in a town where no takeaways offered a delivery service that produced its own menus covering Indian, Chinese cuisine and Fish/Chips. It was reputed that they merely bought the dishes from existing takeaways and handled the delivery/cash side. They no longer operate (I cant find record on Companies House either, so it is possible it was a trading name of something/someone else)
  2. A local taxi firm offers a service to collect from a number of takeawys for a fee; obviously being a taxi firm, this allows them to be paid for an amount of their empty running costs (if you think about it, peak takeaway times when people want takeaways form the town centre delivered to suburbs crosses over with when people in the suburbs want to get into the centre of town to go out drinking - so the empty cab to pick up the passengers can take a takeaway; you can also do multi-drop when loaded only with food). Again, I'm unfamiliar with how much integration the taxi firm has with the takeaways in question; even if this service ran at a loss, it may help encourage new passenger customers, ,so it might be a worthwhile marketing exercise)
  3. Then you have companies like Just Eat (and there was at least one other following a similar business model on the BBC's Dragon's Den show a while back) that openly integrate with takeaways and take a commission from the takeaways.

Obviously you will want to keep your variant on the business model close to your chest, so that you can minimise competition. In either case, I would recommend talking to the takeaways in question as they may be open to profit sharing. It would also be advisable to speak with local interest websites (around my way, I'd say to look at as they already have an established reviews system of local takeaways - they seem to operate around most of the country as works - as does most town names I could think of) they may be able to introduce you to takeaways if they already have a relationship, or even offer to integrate with your proposed service when you're ready.

answered Jan 13 '11 at 23:03
Rowland Shaw
226 points


If you need to know about the law, you need to ask a lawyer. OTOH, you could just do it, and avoid annoying anyone, and so probably avoid getting in trouble.

If you want to do it, do it, but I should add (a) it's probably going to be almost impossible, because people are used to free delivery (b) a 24-hr grocery that delivers would also be nice to have in London.

answered Apr 13 '11 at 23:33
526 points

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