Restaurant owners say they hate the food delivery behemoths because their fees are high and client support is low. Many restaurant patrons feel the same way. Yet few independent alternatives to the major players have emerged because the complexities of delivery make it almost impossible for a small-scale operation to compete.
But areas that aren’t served by DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub are ideal testing grounds for entrepreneurial models of getting restaurant food into people’s homes. Kiawah and Seabrook islands, for instance, have two new delivery platforms developed by residents attuned to their neighbors’ needs.
“Let’s face it: People who live in Kiawah and Seabrook have the money,” says Fred Stuart of Curbside Gourmet CHS, who adds a flat $25 surcharge to every order he drives back from downtown, although he reserves the right to adjust that figure upward for “larger and more expensive” hauls.
By contrast, Dave Woodson and Jaime Corrado developed a variable fee structure for Delivery Boy, with the price ranging from nothing to $6.99, depending on the customer’s address.
“It’s totally free for the restaurants,” Woodson stresses. “Our main goal was to support the small business community. We want to help these restaurants keep their doors open.”
Delivery Boy functions much like the best-known delivery services, with delivery available from partner restaurants whenever they’re open. The majority of the nine restaurants listed on the Delivery Boy site are located on Johns Island, although Woodson says they hope to add more restaurants to the lineup.
As they’ve discovered in their first weeks of business, restaurant meals aren’t all that Kiawah and Seabrook residents want. They’ve interpreted Delivery Boy’s promise of “white glove service” to mean they can use Delivery Boy as a traditional courier.
Woodson says he’s already exchanged one customer’s propane tank and brought a heavy package to FedEx for another customer.
“From a logistical standpoint, it can be challenging; even Uber Eats doesn’t make any money,” Woodson says. “But if you’re able to scale slowly and methodically, and operate locally, you can make it work.”
Curbside Gourmet CHS requires more advance planning on the customer’s part.
“It’s not for someone who feels like Mexican,” Stuart explains. Instead, customers choose from a curated list of Charleston-area restaurants the day before they want their meals, then meet Stuart in Freshfields Village the following afternoon to pick up their orders.
Right now, Curbside Gourmet CHS is only delivering from Lewis Barbecue and Sugar Bakeshop, as well as Hamby Catering and Cru Catering. The biggest hitch, Stuart says, is finding restaurants which offer dinner-worthy food in the middle of the day.
Stuart is also wary of carting kinds of foods back to Kiawah Island because he’s worried that they wouldn’t withstand the trip. Still, he’s looking to grow his restaurant roster, too.
“When you live out here, you’re limited to the 10 or so same restaurants out here, plus the various club facilities,” he says. “During the pandemic, a lot of people got sick of the same old thing.”
Restaurant owners who’ve become accustomed to shouldering fees of as much as 30 percent can relate.
Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.