Bite Squad Partners with Restaurants for Real-time Delivery
Rick Martin (right), who’s been delivering with Bite Squad since the beginning, picks up a food order from Crave manager Randall Cahn.
Wanting to increase the ways in which it reached customers is what first led Hell’s Kitchen to explore food delivery, but the downtown Minneapolis restaurant soon learned there was more to getting its Juicy Lucifer Burger into the hands of an off-site customer than sending a server out in his or her car.
Buying vehicles, hiring drivers, paying for insurance—these are all things Hell’s Kitchen decided it didn’t want to deal with.
“One of the things we’re good at is knowing what we don’t know,” says Pat Forciea, a partner in the restaurant and company president. “The delivery business is full of all sorts of unique challenges … could we have done it on our own, yes, but there would have been a huge learning curve.”
That’s where Bite Squad comes in. While food delivery isn’t a new idea, the Minneapolis-based company is taking a new-age approach. Customers place their orders online using Bite Squad’s mobile-friendly website; restaurants get the orders via a tablet; then a driver picks up and delivers the food. Bite Squad uses an algorithm that measures cooking time, how many orders are being placed, available drivers and even traffic flow to generate a precise arrival time, explains founder Kian Salehi. And customers can track their order in real time via GPS.
Consumer demand for convenience is pushing restaurants to adapt, and in a continually crowded dining landscape that means more than providing a parking lot. Online ordering is a near necessity, and diners want customization and choices not just on the menu but also in their overall experience.
Salehi and business partner Arash Allaei launched Bite Squad in 2012 under the umbrella of Kasa Capital (they have several other tech-focused startups). In the beginning the service had 17 restaurants online, including Hell’s Kitchen. Today, customers can order from more than 250 restaurants.
“We offer a platform that’s ready to go,” says Salehi. “We have 150 drivers and can easily scale up or scale down based on demand.”
A Bite Squad driver promotes the restaurant delivery service in St. Paul by cruising around in one of the company’s branded Priuses, while another invites potential customers to order online.
That Bite Squad employs its own professional, uniformed drivers—whose photos pop up when customers track their orders—to run its fleet of branded Priuses is another reason Hell’s Kitchen signed on with the service.
“We’re really good at protecting our brand,” says Forciea, “and a big part of that is providing top-end service. We really felt it was critical for us to find a delivery partner that felt the same way. Their drivers are great at representing the restaurant in the best manner.”
“They are a 21st century delivery company,” agrees Kip Clayton, vice president of marketing for Parasole. The restaurant group offers delivery from two its restaurants—Mozza Mia and Chino Latino—through Bite Squad.
Food delivery services are maligned in a lot of ways, continues Clayton, often conjuring images of a high school kid driving a beat-up car. Bite Squad, however, is “high tech and high touch,” making it a good brand match for Parasole.
“Our appearance standards, our uniform standards set us apart,” says Salehi, who also expanded the service to Seattle and Las Vegas last year, with Baltimore set to launch this month. “And we’re continually updating our software.”
A common misconception is that Bite Squad marks up the menu prices, but that’s actually against policy, points out Salehi. The company makes its money by taking a flat percentage of orders placed and charging the customer a delivery fee. Bite Squad then makes payments twice a month to its participating restaurants.
In 2014 Hell’s Kitchen saw 3,831 orders come through Bite Squad—1,746 from new customers—says Forciea, amounting to $136,000 in gross revenue. Orders from Mozza Mia and Chino Latino bring incremental revenue of $10,000 to $20,000 per month to
Restaurant operators say mobile ordering through Bite Squad helps them reach more customers.
Parasole, according to Clayton.
“And once it’s out the door, there’s no additional cost to us,” says Clayton.
Plus, a restaurant can learn a lot about its customers through these online orders—their address, menu choices, what they spend. All this data can help shape targeted marketing strategies and social media efforts to motivate purchases.
Bite Squad also works with restaurants to tailor their menu offerings with portability in mind. Delivery is limited to a seven-mile radius from any particular restaurant to ensure hot food arrives hot and cold food arrives cold.
Vincent A Restaurant went online with Bite Squad two years ago and keeps its menu limited to ensure customers receive the same high-quality food they would if they came into the Nicollet Mall restaurant.
“Every time we change the menu, we evaluate what menu items will translate well to delivery,” explains General Manager Sarah Fioritto. “Unfortunately, many of our menu items don’t travel well—fish, brothy sauces, etc.—so we do have to limit our menu.”
Sturdier items such as steaks, burgers and sandwiches are available, and Fioritto says Bite Squad gives the restaurant another avenue to serve its current clientele and also attract additional customers.
“We liked the idea of giving our customers a more accessible way to experience our food at home,” she says, adding they hear mainly positive feedback. “It’s great to have another way to serve our patrons, even if they can’t make it down to the restaurant.”