MONTREAL -- Uber Eats is now waiving delivery fees for independent restaurants and offering free meals to healthcare workers as the COVID-19 epidemic continues to hit the service industry hard.

"We know the coming weeks will be challenging ones for many small business owners, and we want to help restaurants focus on food, not finances," said Janelle Sallenave, head of Uber Eats Canada and US.

The company is not waiving fees to major chains such as McDonald's or Subway.

Uber Eats has a page dedicated to the coronavirus on its website.

The Uber Eats app will also produce a dedicated marketing campaign to promote local restaurants, particularly those that are new to the app.

In addition, restaurants in Canada and the US can receive daily payouts rather than the standard weekly system.

National Council of Chain Restaurants Executive Director David French said the efforts will help soften the impact on businesses.

“We applaud the announcement of steps the company is taking to help restaurant businesses large and small in communities across America during this difficult time,” said French.

The council added that 90 per cent of restaurants are small, family-owned establishments with 50 employees or fewer.

“Efforts that promote drive-thru, takeout and delivery are important tools to help restaurants continue to serve consumers during challenging times," said Sean Kennedy, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association.

Uber Eats also pledged over 300,000 free meals for healthcare workers. The company is active in over 45 countries and said it has supported delivery people who have either been diagnosed with COVID-19 or been asked to self-isolate with financial assistance.

The company has also begun a campaign to drive awareness of "contactless" delivery including ensuring orders are sealed in tamper-evident packaging and providing delivery people with sanitization materials.