Having food delivered to your doorstep was once a luxury we only indulged in every so often. Since March, food delivery has become a fact of life, especially for those who are unable to leave their homes.
National brands such as UberEats, Grubhub, Doordash and Postmates make ordering food a breeze, offering deals and passes that ostensibly save the consumer money, though some of you might be laughing out loud now.
But what do your favorite local restaurants have to pay when they sign up for third-party delivery services?
In May, a pizza owner’s Facebook post went viral after he shared a receipt showing that out of $1,100 worth of orders, his restaurant made less than $400. The rest went to Grubhub.
Even though these third-party apps charge upwards of 15 to 30% commission fees per order, some businesses consider them a necessary evil. Tough times call for compromise, and a restaurant may be willing to swallow hefty fees in order to get any kind of revenue in the door.
There is another option, though. Local food delivery services offer more flexible rates and contract terms for restaurants, and the boots-on-the-ground customer service can’t be beat.
We checked in with two popular local food delivery services, bicycle-based Quickness RVA, founded in 2010 by Frank Bucalo, and Chop Chop RVA, founded in 2018 by Chris Chandler, to hear how they’ve been operating during the pandemic.
Style Weekly: Have your customers and restaurant clients changed over the course of the past 10 months?
Frank Bucalo: We’ve definitely seen lots of changes, lots of fluctuations. When we saw an increase with outdoor dining we saw a decrease with delivery. It’s been a rollercoaster for everyone. When restaurants need to close, permanently or temporarily, we have to shift our amount of staffing based on volume. We’ve had new restaurants come to us over the past year, but we do have our own customer base after being 10 years in the industry. We bring along our own following.
Chris Chandler: It’s been a whirlwind. When all of this hit we weren’t prepared, restaurants were not prepared. But since the beginning of the pandemic we’ve probably quadrupled in size. We shot up like a bean and restaurants were used to getting a certain number of orders. Drivers were used to getting a certain number of tips. And then we have dips and we have to accommodate the needs of the entire situation and scale back. Once kids are in school and it’s the colder season, we usually do more business, now that it’s January with New Year’s resolutions to budget more and eat out less, we’ve seen another dip. These are typically seasonal things you can plan for but with COVID it has been all over the place.
National brands charge pricey activation fees and commissions and often require stringent contract terms. What do your terms and requirements look like for local partners?
Bucalo: We want something sustainable, so we don’t have hard and fast rates. We have a couple different options: We can do a per order setup or a daily retainer maybe $10 a day that carries sales as volume goes up they pay a little more. If a place only gets three orders a day they’ll get a rate that fits them, we figure out what makes it sustainable for couriers and the restaurant to retain enough sales to stay. We are happy to work with anyone, whether they are working with other third parties – that is OK. We want them to do whatever makes the most sense for them.
Chandler: We’ve been working with restaurants closely enough to understand their needs. Some restaurants are taking this opportunity to shut down and do renovations while others have pursued makeshift operations. For example, one restaurant we started working with didn’t initially like the idea of delivery but just wanted to do it to supplement their income until they could reopen their dining room. Then they stopped using delivery and we were fine with that – I want this to work for them for it to be a partnership. As far as if these partners can use other delivery services, I tell the restaurants “If you want to use the national guys, use them if that works for you.” It’s all about restaurants staying in business – we are nothing without the restaurants.
Why should folks choose your services over national brands?
Bucalo: We don’t seem to have the same cut-throat strongholds as some of the large competitors. And a lot of people who want to support local, green, and eco-friendly appreciate that we are on bicycles – we are hyper-local, so people who care about the impact cars have zipping back and forth across the city [will choose us].
Chandler: I’ve told this to a lot of people – being local you have a big advantage over big carriers because we monitor our drivers. We talk to them on a regular basis, we know how to control customer service. We never knew how important it was to have a direct lifeline to restaurants. There are no local reps for major carriers: It’s not personal. Having that personal connection is great for us, and what we can offer over bigger competitors. Big carriers don’t make exceptions during this time where everybody is trying to help out – that’s not how to be neighborly.Back to State of the Plate 2021