June 13, 2024


Welcome to the Food

These Food Delivery Apps Are Built for the Community by the Community

“The day after Trump got elected [in 2016], we ended up dropping out of college,” David Cabello says, referring to his twin brother, Aaron, and himself. “We wanted to help Black businesses and Black people. I didn’t know how I was going to do that, just that I had to.” While he was figuring things out, Cabello started delivering for Postmates. “At some point, I said to myself, ‘If I can make this much money delivering food on a bike, how much could I make owning the company?’” he remembers. He soon realized there were no food deliveries in the country focusing on Black-owned businesses. So he decided to start one after watching “the corniest YouTube video about starting a business.”

In 2019, Black and Mobile was born, dedicated to delivering food from Black-owned businesses. The first year was tough. Cabello and his brother had only five restaurants in Philadelphia for a few months and delivered the food themselves on bicycles. He ran a humble Kickstarter campaign, raising $5,000. But when a big local restaurant endorsed him, business took off. Black and Mobile earned $25,000 in revenue in its first year. In 2020, the start-up earned $500,000 to $600,000, thanks to improvements in the app, the addition of new restaurants, COVID-19-fueled interest in delivered food, and, as Cabello calls it, “the ‘trend’ to support Black-owned businesses.”

“We bring attention to restaurants. They don’t have to compete with McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A and Popeyes,” Cabello says. Currently, the app is available in Detroit, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, the twins’ hometown, and partners with 70 restaurants. They charge restaurants on the platform a 20 percent fee. They also pay delivery drivers $10 to $12 per delivery, which averages out to $20 to $25 per hour and can go up to $30 to $37 per hour. In comparison, rates for drivers on UberEats or Caviar range from $8 to $25 per hour.

Additionally, Cabello contracted a Black-owned tech firm to help with the app and the website. “If you look at all these other delivery services, they’re making millions of dollars. Black people need to be in this field,” he says.

Nuyen and Shon Emanuel, the mother-daughter owners of Supreme Oasis Bakery and Deli in Philadelphia, joined Black and Mobile in April 2019. Initially, they were working with UberEats, but after two months, they switched to Cabello’s platform. “We’re Black and Muslim,” Nuyen says. “It was important for us to support not only a business but a legacy. In Philly, there are not many Black-owned businesses—and many of them go under—so we wanted to circulate the dollar in our community.” Financially, adds Shon, the fees are about 25 percent lower than on UberEats, and customer support is more personable. “They were very honest and forthcoming, and we thought, People gave us a try, so let’s give them a try.” she says. The bet paid off. According to Shon, their delivery business has been growing ever since they switched. “We’re in West Philly serving vegan soul food, and they have really promoted us and helped people discover us,” Nuyen says.

This year Cabello plans on expanding to Washington, D.C., driven by the same vision: go where Black communities flourish.

For Chowbus, the fast-rising app founded by Chinese immigrants Suyu Zhang and Linxin Wen in 2016, representation on the tech stage goes hand in hand with a nuanced approach to delivery. Last year the app secured a $33 million investment from venture capitalist firms in Silicon Valley and banks like Altos Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. Investors praised its narrow focus on the Asian restaurant market. This sizable chunk of money contributed to the platform’s steady growth; in the past year, Chowbus has increased its revenue by 700 percent.