Oct. 23–Before opening up his Cafe Express-O coffee shop this spring, Hunter Jones did his homework.
He took to heart the location, location, location real estate mantra, choosing a West Palm Beach site near the Palm Beach Outlets, calculating the proximity to the popular and high-volume mall would draw walk-in traffic. He also followed start-up business best practices, including leaning on friends and family to help him out.
Now, roughly five months later, an unexpected, potential game-changer could boost his business volume: a disruptive technology. On Oct. 17, Jones’ launched his connection to the UberEATS platform, which he said is like a second grand opening.
“It’s been a factor right out of the gate,” Jones said. “We started getting orders immediately and it hasn’t stopped.”
UberEATS is an online meal ordering and drop-off service run buy San Francisco-based Uber Technologies — yes, that Uber — which partners with restaurants to deliver food.
In the case of young restaurants, like Cafe Express-O, UberEATS allows them to deliver on demand minus the speculative, upfront investment to hire delivery people without knowing how much business they’ll have at the outset.
For all the hand-wringing about legacy-type business getting hammered by disruptive tech — and it’s true they are — Jones said he hopes this “other” Uber service can get his still new business on firm ground.
“We built up market share,” said Jones. “But Uber also puts you on another platform.”
The connection to UberEATS came via a peer in the business, and one of the close friends Jones has had assisting him, Mevo Jacobi, owner of nearby Cucina Pizza By Design. Jones said Jacobi came to him with the idea of signing up to boost their delivery business.
They did, and now they say, they are getting extra business. For Jones, it is expanding his breakfast customers. For Jacobi, it is broadening the menu.
“We got lucky,” said Jacobi. “And I say we got lucky because Uber really doesn’t sign up small businesses. And we’re small businesses.”
Jones said the UberEATS deal is a way to generate orders during off-peak times, those stretches of time when the cafe isn’t bustling. It also extends their geographic reach, and adds a bit more marketing muscle.
Will it work? It all depends, Jones said, on being able to meet expectations. Or better said, he quickly clarified, estimating the workload just right.
“I want to make sure we have the right estimates,” said Jones. “I want to make sure I can estimate the volume. I want to make sure I can estimate the product so there is no waste and I can provide things and not run out of things.”
The last thing he wants, Jones said, is to get poor ratings from customers by underwhelming them. Online reviews are double-edged swords.
“”That can make you nervous,” said Jacobi. “But it can also make you realize we can expand. We can be bigger.”
Which is what all start-up businesses strive for, legacy or disruptive.
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