In case anyone was overwhelmed or even jaded by the shiny, giant delivery players speaking on stage at the Food On Demand Conference today—Grubhub, UberEats, Postmates, Google and their impressive peers—along came Delivery Dudes’ founder Jayson Koss, speaking truth to power in funny fashion and rocking the best hair of the conference.
He founded Delivery Dudes in 2009 and is now in 60 to 70 cities. “Our drivers are happy, we’ve never had a drivers strike to this day,” he said, with a little jab at Uber. “When I started the company, restaurants would say no, no, no, our food doesn’t travel,” so Delivery Dudes would order the food the chefs said wouldn’t travel, put it in thermal packs and wait 10 minutes, and then eat the food with the chefs. ”This partnership-building is what got the restaurants on board to work with Delivery Dudes,” he said.
“I didn’t understand scale. I didn’t understand how to raise venture money,”he said. So he took the company’s best drivers, promoted them to office work, raised them up through the management ranks, “and then we would give them the opportunity to be the Dude in their hometown. That’s how we growth-hacked,” he said. “Now I had these Dudes that actually cared.”
A lot has changed since the company’s founding, and Koss sounded bitter about the money flowing to larger delivery players, and restaurant operators that he felt he cultivated now racing to sign on with them. “All of a sudden Silicon Valley and the garages out there found out this was something that could scale. You guys know all the names. They all start coming into the space, and price and volume becomes a game.
“Those same restaurant partners that begged me—my food quality, it’s all about my food quality—and now sign up with X, Y, Z delivery company that don’t use thermal, that drivers don’t show up on time….All of a sudden because they’re doing it at a cheaper price that took me years to sign up, are signing up with the Ubers of the world and the DoorDashes of the world. That was hard for us,” he said.
“We’ve seen our restaurant customers get very excited about these shiny new delivery companies, and then they immediately blanket the whole area with free delivery,” he said. “With the obvious IPOs coming, we’ve seen the price raises. Uber has raised its prices three or four times in the last six months to the point where it’s newsworthy.”
He urged restaurant operators to understand the digital space, starting with Google Knowledge Panel, which serves as the restaurant’s business page. He noted the point when “all of a sudden” a DoorDash button showed up on these pages, telling customers to order through the service, and yet “80 percent of restaurants didn’t know that was existing.”
He speculated amusingly how those DoorDash buttons appeared. “Because of the way Doordash had their data structured, or whaterever it was—I’m not really sure. Conspiracy?” he said, waving his hands above that big hairdo, then adding to laughs from the audience: “Yes, take your lanyards off.”