"OrderUp is perhaps the most transparent of all the food delivery apps out there today, offering constant and detailed updates from the moment you place your order to the instant it arrives on your doorstep."

-Top8, 2015

OrderUp.com Debuts New Delivery Service, and We Try It Out

3/18/2015 Nashville Scene

Over the years, several different companies have offered delivery service to bring food from local restaurants to your home or office. Usually, they charge a small delivery fee and offer menus from a combination of chain restaurants and fast casual spots willing to partner for carryout. The primary problem with these services is that consumers don't know how many restaurants the driver is picking up from or how many orders are getting dropped off before the drive arrives at your door; sometimes you wind up cold, soggy food or just a general uncertainty about when your food will arrive. If you only have an hour for lunch or are trying to feed your team during a break in a meeting, this can be a problem.

Now a new service is promising to harness technology to mitigate these problems and at least offer some transparency in the restaurant delivery business. OrderUp.com is primarily a technology and logistics company first, started up in 2009 by Chris Jeffrey and Jason Kwicien after they developed a menu website as college students at Penn State in 2004. Since then, the app-based system has expanded to more than 30 markets across the United States, and Nashville is the latest addition to the fold. Last year, they also took in $9 million in funding, led by AOL co-founder Steve Case’s Revolution Ventures, to help with their rapid expansion.

A primary differentiating factor was OrderUp's hiring of the ex-chief information officer of Dominos Pizza to act as their chief operations officer. At Domino's, Chris McGlothlin led the development of their Pizza Tracker and mobile ordering system, so he will be charged with expanding the infrastructure of OrderUp to keep up with their growth. I asked about how the company would address the difficulties of multiple deliveries and was told:

We limit the grouping based on a special "group criteria." Grouping criteria includes:

1. Distance between restaurants;
2. Distance between customers;
3. A limit on the number of total grouped orders a driver can take on (which we configure at market level and per driver);
4. A limit on the number of unique restaurants per driver

The question we answer is: Are the restaurants and customers close enough together AND is the driver not too busy (with other grouped orders)? That's how we keep grouped deliveries quick with the food still hot. This is all automated via our dispatching technology.

Although that may sound a bit like "tech speak," it does demonstrate they are at least attempting to leverage the sort of technology that companies like Uber and Lyft use to dispatch their drivers for the optimum efficiency. I decided to try to see how it works in practice.

OrderUp was kind enough to extend me a credit to try out their system for a meal, so I set up an account and logged into the app, which is available for iPhone or Android. (Or you can use the online version.) Currently, OrderUp serves 72 restaurants in Nashville, focusing on the Midtown, downtown and Gulch areas. Included are the usual delivery suspects such as pizza, Asian and sandwich shops.

But there are some notable options that you wouldn't normally expect to participate in delivery. New spots like Lucky Belly, Party Fowl, Bobbie's Dairy Dip (downtown), Nashville Street Tacos, Bawarchi Biryani Point and The Slider House are all part of the OrderUp menu. Additionally, there are unexpected options like Hog Heaven, Elliston Place Soda Shop, Dairy Queen and Sonic in case you've got a hankering for a barbecue sandwich, milkshake or some carnival food. I also noticed that 12 South Bistro was on the list, which came as a surprise since I had no idea that they had reopened on Elliston.

To test the system, I intentionally chose a restaurant that I thought might be a challenge. Party Fowl has in the past offered delivery service via Uber, and from what I heard from you all, pretty much laid an egg in their first attempt. So I selected a roast chicken dish and a side of mac 'n' cheese and hit "order."

Almost immediately, the data started pouring in from OrderUp.com via text messages and the website. After ordering at 11:10 a.m., I received the first confirmation via text at 11:11 with a link to where I could track my order online. I was told that Charles would be my driver and that he had made 21 deliveries in the past, so this wasn't his first rodeo.

The dot on the map representing Charles began to move in real time from his dispatch point, which appeared to be somewhere near Pinewood Social. (A big free parking lot with access to Crema coffee? That's where I'd hang out, too.) I watched his blip move like tracking a sonar ping, and by 11:17 he was at the restaurant, and I received notice that he had arrived. Unfortunately, my food wasn't ready yet, but that would have been expecting an awful lot.

Charles was more patient than I was, because his dot sat there for almost a full 20 minutes before he was on the move again. When he did deliver, he told me that Party Fowl hadn't put the order in their system until he arrived. After leaving at 11:37, Charles made it to my house near Hillsboro Village in just eight minutes. I was able to stand at my front door and track him coming down my street in real time on the iPhone app until the dot (and Charles) stopped in front of my house. I'd already tipped him as part of the transaction, so he was gone within 30 seconds.

To my delight, my order was correct and piping hot, although the individual dishes hadn't been labeled as I had requested. That's not a big deal to me, but if I was ordering in for a whole department at an office, that would have been a pain. The delivery charge was only $3.99, which would have been even more reasonable if I was ordering for more than one person.

So in retrospect, even the 35-minute delivery time was pretty darned impressive. Once the restaurants get their groove and learn how and when to start OrderUp delivery orders, they can probably cut even more time off the process. Thanks to the remarkable tracking system and delivery confirmation, I didn't have to leave my desk until the driver was a minute away. (And that was just to crate up my co-workers so that the driver didn't have to listen to all that barking.)

Considering the variety of restaurants available from OrderUp.com and the dedication to tracking and logistics, I think that this service has a chance to stand out. If they can manage their rapid national growth and pay attention to local markets, they could become the Domino's of restaurant delivery. I'll use them again. In fact, if I ever win the lottery, I'm going to set up a standing order of a Sonic corn dog and a cherry limeade every afternoon at 3.

How about you, Bitesters? Have you used any of the other services? Any success/horror stories? Would you try OrderUp.com if you thought they could differentiate themselves from other services?

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