Food Delivery Apps Grow Customers, Delivery Options

 Zachary Maurais, found of Favor, posing with developer Caleb Fulgham outside the company's headquarters on South Lamar Boulevard.

Photo Credit: Jared Wynne

Austin’s restaurant industry has grown at an exponential rate. New restaurants like Gus’s Fried Chicken, Due Forni and Dolce Neve are finding their way into the heart of downtown Austin, and there are many more restaurant openings planned this year. With people looking to experiment with their food and their willingness to try out new places, food delivery services make dining quick, convenient and hassle-free.

Joshua Barber, vice president of Austin-based, online food-delivery service Dine on Demand, said there wasn’t much competition in the food delivery space back when he decided to start his company in 2006. 

“I saw a need for restaurants trying to connect to delivery,” Barber said. “People are now more educated about food; they want quality. The fastest-growing segment of the food services industry is delivery.”

Dine on Demand has a mobile-friendly website, but there are plans for a mobile app, because more and more orders are coming in through mobile devices, Barber said. With more than 80 restaurant partners in the Austin area and more than 200 all over the country, Dine on Demand has cultivated partnerships in five cities: Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Orlando and Colorado Springs. 

Barber said he and his team of nine employees are constantly trying to stay on top of the marketing game in a burgeoning industry replete with competitors like GrubHub Inc., Eat24 and Favor, the most recent startup to enter the food delivery industry. Launched in June 2013 by co-founders Zachary Maurais and Ben Doherty, Favor has grown exponentially in the past couple of months.

Voted “Best Local App” by The Austin Chronicle last year, Favor has a simple interface. Once a user logs into the app, it displays a list of nearby places or restaurants. The user types the name of the place into a search box inside the app, requests a ‘favor,’ pays a $5 fee and waits for the item to be delivered. The Favor runners are the customers’ personal shopping assistants, shopping for items ranging from paper towels and detergent to packaged food and salads.

“We have a really fast average delivery time of 37 minutes,” Maurais said. “These people shop for you and people can tip us whatever they want.” Maurais said Torchy’s Tacos is the top-selling item on Favor. 

They expanded their delivery services beyond restaurants because people love choices, Maurais said. Inside the Favor app, there are different “playlists” such as “healthy meals,” “late-night cravings” and “vegans.”

“The biggest thing that we’ve done for growth is that we’ve put in a lot of time and thought into simplifying the process and making it really easy to ask favors,” Maurais said. “We’ve also spent a lot of time in identifying what makes a good runner.” 

Favor runners need to be able to communicate the brand well and have to be upbeat and positive. Customers have direct lines of communication with the runner once their order has been placed. 

“Customers leave ratings on both the food and the runner,” Maurais said. “We found that customers like to get text messages that give them updates on the status of their order. For example, if Home Slice Pizza is preparing your order and it probably takes a bit of time, then having that runner text you, asking if you’d like to add anything to your order, is something customers appreciate from the runners.”

Maurais said besides maintaining a high level of customer service, their team is also looking to hire more developers for their soon-to-be-released Android app and to hire more runners who can be positive additions to their start up.

“Favor has the potential to be a global company,” Maurais said. “We plan to expand to other cities as well this year.”