In opening Lucky 8’s China House, Bracey Rogers wanted to offer an amenity no other local restaurant could provide: delivery service.
“It was the driving force behind opening,” says Rogers, owner of the Chinese restaurant, which opened in Seattle in December.
“There’s really not that much option for delivery. My wife and I live three blocks away from the restaurant and can’t even get a pizza delivered.”
Yet the thought of adding car insurance costs to his bottom line, in addition to paying drivers enough to cover their gasoline, made him pause. And so he debuted bicycle delivery service in February, using two or three bikes that deliver within a 3.5-mile radius. (Two of the bicycles are his; the third belongs to an employee.)
Containers filled with food are wrapped with cellophane before they are laid into an insulated bag—to keep the food hot—and strapped onto a sturdy metal rack with bungee cords, all necessary to ensure there isn’t any leakage.
“It can be a little tricky, I must say,” Rogers says. However, all the attention to detail has paid off. Customers like the bicycle delivery aspect, he says, and it’s directly led to many repeat customers.
While restaurants in highly populated cities like New York City and Paris have been pulling up to customers’ doors with their take-out orders for years, it’s only recently expanded elsewhere.
Not only is it cheaper to drive a bicycle than it is a car, there is no need to take out auto insurance or rely upon rising gasoline costs. Bicycle delivery is ideal for urban settings where it might take just as long to cycle to a destination as it would to slip behind the wheel of a car. And traveling by bike is an eco-friendly mode of transport.
“It was faster for me to deliver on bikes rather than cars,” says chef Erwin Ramos of Ole Restaurant Group in Boston. His Zocalo Cocina Mexicana debuted bicycle delivery service in May.
“It was very expensive to operate [cars] with the insurance and gasoline, and we had a lot of tickets for double parking,” he explains.
Four bicycles were retrofitted to fit his needs with a back stand and a front basket that supports the food deliveries. A sign on the front basket advertises the restaurant group. Deliveries are within a two-mile radius.
Finding employees to hop onto bicycles was not a challenge. “It’s a bicycle town,” says Ramos, who further promotes the new delivery service with 10 percent off for customers who arrive wearing a bicycle helmet.
In Milwaukee, INdustri Café owner Robert Klemm recently rolled out bicycle delivery. His goal is to target a new population: offices within a two-mile radius with employees who order out for lunch.
Instead of hiring employees to handle the bicycle deliveries he contracts with a local bicycle courier service to shuttle a limited menu of lunch options. Conveniently, this is during the couriers’ lull. A $3 delivery charge is tacked onto each order and the couriers retain any tips.
Orders are wrapped in thick paper and packaged into the couriers’ cross-body bags or backpacks. Writing the special delivery menu took some thought.
“What I considered is what would hold up well,” Klemm says.
The new bicycle service at INdustri Café was timed well. After celebrating 18 months of business Klemm yearned to try something new but did not want to splurge a lot of money to do so. He recalled a friend’s earlier suggestion that he partner with the local courier service.
“These guys are totally insured and bonded for $2 million,” Klemm explains. “Besides, it’s better for the environment.”
It’s also helped him gain exposure with the downtown business crowd as the couriers leave menus and other promotional materials inside businesses they deliver to.
“They’re able to get inside where other [restaurants] can’t,” says Klemm.
By Kristine Hansen