ChowNow, an online ordering platform, is getting the attention of federal lawmakers after hiring lobbyists to call attention to a dispute with Apple, Recode reported. The conflict started in July when Apple updated its App Store guidelines to prohibit “apps created from a commercialized template or app generation service.” The rule takes effect on Jan. 1.
While the rule could be interpreted as an attempt by Apple to control spam, it also takes aim at ChowNow, which develops and builds online-ordering apps from templates for small restaurants that don’t have the financial resources or tech expertise to custom-build mobile software. ChowNow has 9,000 local restaurants as customers.
ChowNow’s lobbying blitz drew the attention of Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who urged Apple to “examine possible changes” to its guidelines and to consider the needs of small businesses, research organizations and religious institutions that rely on template apps. Apple didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment, Recode reported.
ChowNow’s dispute with Apple is remarkable in that the companies couldn’t seem to find an amicable resolution before calling on lawmakers for help (although a class-action lawsuit that drags on for years while ChowNow is locked out of the App Store isn’t much of an alternative). ChowNow fears that Apple’s policy will lead its customers to take their business to other food-ordering platforms, like GrubHub or DoorDash. UberEats not only provides delivery service for restaurateurs, but also is helping them set up “virtual restaurants.”
Christopher Webb, the chief executive of ChowNow, said he believes the apps the company already created for thousands of restaurants will stay on the App Store, but he’s concerned that additional apps won’t be accepted at the beginning of the year. He’d like to see Apple implement a new system that gives certain template app-makers a “stamp of approval” for meeting certain guidelines while removing the junky, unwanted apps.
Ideally, ChowNow and Apple will reach some kind of agreement that’s satisfactory to both parties. That may mean Apple will have to improve its screening of apps instead of eliminating entire categories that use a certain template. Apple is certainly mindful of the developer community in its efforts to promote apps and improve their overall quality. The company redesigned the App Store to help consumers find more apps, and it created the ARKit to give developers better tools to add augmented reality features to apps, among its recent initiatives. Given that background, if would be a big surprise if Apple and ChowNow couldn’t find a way to see eye to eye.