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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 1:00 am

More food delivery options embraced

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | For The Journal Gazette

As a small-business owner, Christina Hay says, she has to use every revenue source available.

For the Freshii franchisee, who has been providing downtown diners healthier options for lunch and dinner since 2016, it has meant taking the bowls and burritos, salads and wraps to the consumers – whether it is via in-house delivery services or an outside provider.

About 25 percent to 30 percent of the sales for the restaurant in The Harrison are delivery, Hay says.

“The bulk of that is what we do ourselves,” she says. “We are currently doing a market analysis for delivery and catering to increase that revenue source to be closer to 50 percent of sales.”

Hay signed on with Waiter on the Way shortly after she opened, but this year has brought two new options to Fort Wayne – GrubHub and UberEats.

According to a study released in April by NPD Group, a leading global information company, food service delivery posted sizable gains in both visits and sales over the last five years.

The growth was due, in large part, to digital ordering, which now represents over half of all delivery visits, the study says.

Third-party services are capitalizing on the growth, expanding from larger markets such as Chicago to mid-size cities like Fort Wayne.

UberEats launched its Fort Wayne service July 20, marking the fourth Indiana city to be added.

Restaurants including McDonald's, IHOP, Miami Grill and Waynedale Bakery were among the first to sign on locally.

GrubHub expanded its delivery services to Fort Wayne this spring as part of a launch that included 34 markets across 19 states.

It was part of GrubHub's plan to add more than 100 new markets this year.

Users of UberEats and GrubHub order via an app or website, and the food is delivered by a driver. Freshii was able to negotiate with GrubHub so that they could use their own delivery people.

Tammi McKee, who operates Comfort Food Cafe in Citizens Square, signed on with UberEats.

For McKee, she was drawn to the terms – there was no initial startup costs and UberEats provided the hardware.

“We haven't seen a tremendous amount of business but we do have orders every day,” McKee says.

“We are only open from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, so that could be why, but I am hopeful to pick up more during breakfast and lunch as word gets out.”

Derek Berkes, owner of Waiter on the Way, welcomes the addition of the food delivery services to the Fort Wayne market.

Waiter on the Way got its start in March 1991 by two local men, and Berkes bought the company in 2001, building it to the service customers know today.

More than 150 restaurants are signed on with the service, which has a local call center and 60 delivery drivers in the area.

“Competition is always a good opportunity for everyone else. Better to have other people in the market,” Berkes says.

“I look forward to them coming into the city so that we can get better at what we do.”

Even though Waiter on the Way has been in the area for nearly 30 years, Berkes says some people either don't know about the service or think it is not for them.

“People say it's expensive, it's only corporate, it's only catering, ... it's not for me, it's for the next person,” Berkes says. “Waiter on the Way is for everybody and that's how we build it and how we service the customer.”

Waiter on the Way has a delivery fee of $5.99. With UberEats, customers will pay for the cost of the food, an Uber Eats booking fee and any applicable taxes. Each restaurant decides how much they want to charge for their food.

Restaurant prices and offers may vary from what you see when you visit the restaurant in person.

The UberEats fees vary from $3.99 to $6.49.

GrubHub fees start at $1.99.

On a search of restaurant delivery available to my house in the 2007, the fee went up to $5.

“Convenience is among the chief reasons why consumers visit restaurants and delivery brings a heightened level of it,” says Warren Solochek, senior vice president of industry relations for NPD Group.

“We forecast that delivery will grow over the next five years and the growth will source to non-traditional delivery outlets and dayparts.”

Food truck honor

Lori Koble had goosebumps.

The owner of the Who Cut the Cheese? food truck learned Monday that she was the winner of Mobile-Cuisine.com's contest, naming the best grilled cheese food truck of 2018.

But the win came after a contentious online voting period, which included negative messages on social media, harassing phone calls and an apology from a food truck owner in Texas.

“After counting the over 50,000 total votes submitted in the poll, Who Cut the Cheese is our winner,” Mobile-Cuisine.com shared on the website.

In second place was Street-Licious from Longview, Texas. Third was Ruthie's Rolling Café from Dallas.

The final results of this poll came after hours of vote auditing.

Koble says she was neck and neck with Ruthie's Rolling Café, which is a two-time winner. She would check the results and would be 200 votes ahead; the next day, Who Cut the Cheese? would be trailing by 100.

It was exciting for the restaurant industry veteran, who has had her truck on the market since the spring. Not only is she competitive but it was a way to involve her fans – whom she affectionately calls “Cheeseheads” – in the contest.

Food truck fans are a loyal group and as excited as her fans were, supporters of Ruthie's became overzealous. Not only were there unkind comments on social media, but as voting neared an end, Koble received phone calls from Texas that were laced with curse words and encouraged her to give up.

“It's not supposed to be like this. It's a friendly contest,” Koble recalls saying.

She says the comments were reported to Mobile-Cuisine and the owner of Ruthie's sent an apology via a direct message on Twitter.

Despite the troubles, Koble is excited about the win – not just the bragging rights but celebrating her fans.

Around town

Utopian Coffee will be hosting an open house Friday, giving visitors a chance to tour its roasting facility. Samples of brewed coffee will be provided with espresso options available for purchase. Bags of coffee will be available for purchase, and food trucks will be on-site. Bravas will serve lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and Lucille's BBQ will serve dinner from 5 to 7 p.m.

The event will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the 222 Pearl St. location.

• In addition to regular business hours, Waynedale Cafe will be open the first Sunday of the month. On Sept. 2, the 5700 Bluffton Road restaurant will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email kdupps@jg.net or call 461-8304.