The race is on to be Uber for restaurants.
Following the success of ride-sharing businesses, a handful of companies are pushing into Central Florida as on-call food-delivery services for restaurants that don’t have their own drivers.
Groupon-owned OrderUp launched Tuesday in Orlando with a fleet of about 60 drivers bringing food from restaurants to homes and businesses. Two local companies, Doorstep Delivery and Munchem, are also trying to find their place amid growing national competition from app-based services.
The services use an independent-contractor model, dispatching drivers to pick up orders at restaurants and then drive the food to its destination.
“You’ve always had the takeout-taxi model, but what we are seeing now is the younger generation who is very mobile-device-enabled,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of restaurant-research group Technomic.
The industry is more crowded nationally, with companies such as Postmates, GrubHub and Uber’s own restaurant delivery service, none of which has launched in Orlando.
Restaurants have been eager to get in on the trend, hoping to expand into delivery without hiring drivers. Chipotle, Olive Garden and Publix’s deli-sandwich counters are experimenting with the services at select locations locally.
Customers use the delivery services’ apps to place food orders, which are relayed to restaurants. The delivery service then picks up the completed orders and delivers them.
Third-party delivery services usually cost $4 to $6 per order, and customers are expected to tip the drivers. The delivery service often takes a cut of the total bill from restaurants, too.
Doorstep has about 300 partners in Central Florida, while OrderUp started with 31 partner restaurants. Munchem takes orders for any restaurant in which it can find a menu.
“These days everybody expects on-demand service,” said Andrew Brown, co-founder of Orlando-headquartered Doorstep Delivery. “People expect what they want, and they want it brought to them.”
Doorstep Delivery is the oldest of such local third-party restaurant delivery companies. It started in the Orlando area seven years ago without smartphones or an app, using dispatchers taking orders on a notepad and calling them into restaurants.
Brown said the rapid pace of technology has pushed the company to redevelop its model, leaning heavier on Web and mobile ordering. Doorstep is revamping its app to allow real-time tracking of delivery drivers, a feature popular with other services.
It is in 19 markets, mostly in Florida but also places such as Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; and Denver. Nationwide, it has about 600 drivers and about 60 locally.
Gator’s Dockside has been working with Doorstep Delivery for about five years. It had considered its own delivery drivers but decided to go with a third-party company.
“When you figure 150 orders a month per location is probably average, I would say it’s definitely worth it as a business to try to reach those people,” said Gator’s Dockside director of operations Joe Foranoce.
OrderUp says its drivers can make up to $25 an hour during peak periods. The company, as well as others, does background checks on drivers and issues them a car magnet and “hot and cool” bags to keep food at temperature.
Delivery times aren’t guaranteed, since restaurants prepare food at their own pace. But the services are designed to have drivers arrive at the restaurant as soon as food is ready and hit the road.
Moises Almaraz, 20, took OrderUp’s first delivery Tuesday from Church Street Tavern in downtown Orlando to a nearby office building.
“I hope to make about $20 an hour,” said Almaraz, who recently moved from Naples after earning his associate degree and hopes to enroll at the University of Central Florida. “I’m just looking to earn some extra money before I go back to school.”
The independent-contractor model has been used by ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, requiring drivers to pay for their own gas, maintenance and taxes.
Another Orlando-based service, Munchem, launched to customers earlier this year with an app.
The service started in the Dr. Phillips neighborhood and has expanded to downtown and the UCF area. Munchem has seven drivers and is hiring more.
“We’ll deliver from pretty much any restaurant that we can get a menu for,” said Andy Kordalski, a spokesman for Munchem. “The ones that want to work with us are great, but we don’t necessarily need to partner with them because we’ll make the order and pick up the food ourselves.”