Putting food on the table and supporting hard-hit restaurants and small businesses at the same time may be one of the bigger concerns of the coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus Live Updates: The latest COVID-19 developments in Seattle and the world of tech
As restaurants have been forced to close to sit-down customers during an official directive from Washington’s governor, some are hoping to sustain themselves and keep people employed through their take out and delivery business.
While some segments of the gig economy have been hard hit by the slowdown impacting communities everywhere, delivery services are bucking the trend. Workers who deliver groceries, meals, and other goods are seeing a spike in demand. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi reported a steep decline in bookings through the ride-hailing app, but the Uber Eats restaurant delivery business has been growing during mandated closures. And Instacart plans to hire 300,000 workers to meet delivery demand.
Even with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s order on Monday night for all residents to stay home for two weeks, food delivery services will not be impacted. The City of Seattle launched an app to connect residents to restaurants and bars offering takeout and delivery.
Check out how a few startups and established businesses are adapting:
Olga Sagan calls Catch22Delivery a “community for the community.”
The owner of the iconic Piroshky Piroshky Russian bakery in Seattle’s Pike Place Market launched the delivery and take-out platform for local restaurants as way to help the struggling hospitality industry.
“We are offering a modern-day version of the yellow pages for small businesses who desperately need to amplify their offerings and raise awareness of their businesses at this devastating time,” Sagan said.
Catch22 is free for small businesses and it sends customers directly to the websites run by those businesses to place their orders, rather than through third-party apps. Users can search their neighborhood for local favorites and businesses are encouraged to sign up on the platform.
“Ordering directly from a restaurant or bakery, for example, saves that small business much needed money at a time when they are struggling to keep their doors open, their ovens on, and to provide work for people,” Sagan said.
More than 50 businesses have already been added to Catch22’s “menu” of restaurants.
Seattle-based Minnow has been testing its food delivery system in Portland for almost a year, and the current health crisis is turning out to be a good measure of the interest in no-contact delivery.
The startup makes IoT-enabled food pickup stations called pods which it has installed in seven office buildings. Five Portland restaurant partners are supplying the food. Users are sent a menu every weekday from which they can choose items and after the order is filled, they can grab their food from a secure pod by unlocking it with a smartphone link.
“We have a hardware-as-a-service model, where we provide 1) the hardware; 2) the software needed to manage the network of pods, restaurant and foodservice providers, consumers, and delivery people; and 3) maintenance and customer service — all for a flat monthly fee,” Minnow CEO Steve Sperry told GeekWire.
Extensive field testing has enabled Minnow to refine the design of the pods and work out all the kinks in the delivery and pickup experiences, according to Sperry.
The company has raised $2.6 million in funding to date, including a $1.2 million pre-seed round in 2018 and $1.4 million seed round, with Elevate Capital as lead investor. Minnow has eight full time employees and eight part-time contract workers.
“One of the benefits of Minnow is that you can pick up your lunch with little or no exposure to other people,” the company says on its website. “Your lunch will be kept fresh and secure in the Minnow Pickup Pod until you’re ready for it. Minnow pods have no touch screens or keypads that can spread virus particles. The cubby doors open automatically.”
Peach, the startup that has focused on food delivery to office workers since its founding in 2014, is launching a home delivery program to cater to people who are staying in during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a message to users in the Seattle community, Peach said it has received an overwhelming request to start lunch services for those working remotely and practicing self isolation.
“We are launching a program of home delivery so that you can enjoy the same daily delicious lunch while supporting our local restaurant community,” Peach said. “Peach has over 100+ restaurants in the greater Seattle area and this program will directly benefit them and thousands of other businesses that rely on them.”
Co-founded by Nishant Singh, Denis Bellavance, Chenyu Wang, and Prerit Agarwal, Peach raised $5 million last month.
Users receive a lunch menu via text or email every day. They make a selection before 10:30 a.m. and lunch is scheduled to arrive between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The company’s markets outside Seattle include Austin, Boston, Dallas Fort Worth, Orange County, Calif., and Fort Myers, Fla.
It has made adjustments during the health crisis, including the use of disposable paper bags for food items, and contact-less deliveries. The Peach delivery fee is also being increased to $2 to support drivers.
The famed fine-dining establishment overlooking Lake Union has pivoted to a more conventional lineup of food offerings to serve a broader segment of the community during the crisis.
“Fine dining is not what Seattle needs right now,” the Canlis family says in a note on its website. “Instead, this is one idea for safely creating jobs for our employees while serving as much of our city as we can.”
Through a drive-thru service in its parking lot, Canlis is running a daily breakfast service called The Bagel Shed and a lunch and dinner option serving up burgers, veggie melts and more, called Drive On Thru. Canlis is also offering a home cooked meal and bottle of wine for home delivery, as well as boxed fresh ingredients direct from the farmers who supply the restaurant.
The offerings have been a hit as vehicles were lined up through the neighborhood last week waiting for a chance to get into the Canlis lot.