Food service groups offer local alternatives to major delivery apps

Adam Fry had just started exploring third-party delivery services when the coronavirus pandemic upended the business model for his bar in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Ivy and Coney, a dive bar known for its Detroit and Chicago-style hot dogs, started leaning more heavily on popular delivery app Grubhub once its regular patrons couldn’t safely visit in person. But Fry said that arrangement quickly became untenable.

“Within about a week we saw, based on our revenue, our total profit actually decreasing,” he said in an interview.

Instead of continuing with the app, Fry and fellow Ivy and Coney co-owners Chris Powers and Josh Saltzman decided to launch their own service geared toward D.C. establishments.

The service, DC To-GoGo, offers a mobile app and web-based marketplace for pickup and delivery. It also offers third-party delivery for any restaurant with its fleet of couriers.

“We wanted to model a business which was largely built on number one transparency, number two living wages and number three working within the restaurant ecosystem,” Fry said.

While the dominant food delivery apps have positioned themselves as allies of local restaurants – urging eaters to support independent businesses and touting efforts to keep them afloat amid the pandemic – many restaurant owners have complained about the services and what they view as excessively high commission fees on orders that leave little margin for restaurants to profit.