Between COVID variants, ingredient shortages, and hard-to-find workers, Boulder restaurants have struggled the past two years. One thing that has helped them survive has been the pandemic-driven boom in takeout and delivery food.
In the spring of 2022, even bistros that had disdained delivery had to embrace packaging their cuisine for transit to local homes. However, the restaurants had a rude awakening when they realized just how much it cost them for third-party food delivery services like DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub.
“Basically, if you order from your favorite restaurant through these services, 30 percent of what you’re paying are commission fees for the big delivery services,” says Nick Graham, Director of Operations for Nosh, a service which delivers food from Boulder restaurants.
Restaurants either swallow that charge as a cost of marketing or raise their prices to compensate, which consumers may find indigestible.
Nosh is a different model for food delivery service. It is 80 percent owned by Boulder restaurants, employing local drivers and capping the delivery fee at 15 percent per order.
It turns out that who delivers your food is just as important as where you order it from.
“It seems like 15 percent is a sustainable amount to charge that works out for the restaurants, the drivers and the company,” Graham says. Other local eateries use Nosh as a delivery service.
The City of Boulder likes this local solution to food accessibility so much that it is extending its program to pay delivery fees for Nosh customers and commission fees for restaurants through the end of February. Many U.S. cities are capping third-party delivery fees to no more than 15 percent per order, but Boulder has not.
Nosh’s Nick Graham previously worked in a Fort Collins restaurant and saw the delivery challenges first-hand.
“The problem is that the delivery services aren’t local restaurant companies, they’re technology companies. They’re known for pushing hundreds of thousands of orders a day. It shows in their customer service. Their call centers aren’t local so it’s hard to communicate with drivers and to complain about orders. It shows in their fees because the fees are hurting local businesses,” he says.
Another Nosh difference is a focus on food freshness. “DoorDash may collect ten orders from a single busy restaurant and deliver them in one trip. That means a lot of food sitting on the bar getting cold. The timing of the order is related to when the driver will arrive at the restaurant. The idea is that when the driver is walking into the restaurant the food is just coming out of the kitchen,” Graham says.
Since the restaurants own the service, they can complain and somebody actually listens to them. “They reach out to tell me what’s good, what’s bad, how we can improve the service,” he says.
Nosh also is responsive to complaints from customers about missed orders and items.
“Restaurants take a lot of pride in their customer service. Restaurants are very human experiences. They mean it when they apologize about an order,” he says.
Graham often hears complaints about the fact that Nosh doesn’t deliver alcohol. “Even though cities like Boulder have approved to-go cocktails for delivery, Colorado law doesn’t allow third-party services to deliver alcohol,” he says. Boulder restaurants that deliver their own food can also deliver alcohol.
Right now, Nosh has about 80 Boulder restaurants signed up and eventually plans to offer delivery in Longmont, Louisville, and Lafayette. “One thing we stand firm on—only independent restaurants. We have one locally-owned national franchise but you won’t see McDonald’s on the list,” Graham says.
Nosh gives Boulder’s independent eateries a chance to compete with the national chains.
“This truly supports the local community and makes sure the money isn’t going to Silicon Valley or New York City or wherever the tech company is located,” Graham says.
Local food news
Restaurants in Louisville that closed because of the Marshall Fire are now gradually reopening. Among those open now are Bawarachi Biryanis, Murphy’s Taphouse, Lamar’s Donuts and Spice China on McCaslin, and the eateries in Downtown Louisville. Already slammed by COVID, they all took a hit from the fire. Do what you can to dine or get takeout or delivery from these restaurants and help them get through this time when many diners are naturally avoiding the area.
While one restaurant was destroyed—the newly opened Rotary—many other Superior eateries and businesses are so severely smoke damaged they will not open for months. Among them is the nine-year-old Wayne’s Smoke Shack, whose owners lost their home in the fire. Contribute if you can to the many GoFundMe efforts on behalf of Superior businesses and restaurant workers who lost jobs and homes . . . Chef Aaron Lande (of Boulder’s much-loved Eridu) has teamed up with Justin Resech (of Georgia Boys BBQ) and Eli Wiggs to open Main Street Eatery, 628 Main Street, in Longmont . . . Longmont now has a full-service bakery. La Momo Maes, the cake bakery, has been merged with Marketplace Bakery, the bread specialists, at 900 S. Hover Road.
First Bite has initiated a “Food is Love” gift card program for families with schoolchildren affected by the Marshall Fire. Your donations to the “Food is Love” campaign will go to $50 local restaurant gift cards that will be distributed at the five elementary schools most impacted by the wildfire—Coal Creek Elementary, Louisville Elementary, Monarch K-8, Fireside Elementary, and Superior Elementary. Learn more at firstbiteboulder.com/food-is-love
Words to chew on
“I really think this is the first generation that truly does understand that their food choices, and their food activism, can make a difference. I’m very encouraged by where young people stand on all of this and how angry they are about climate change and the fact that old people won’t do anything about it.”—Ruth Reichl
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:20 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, streaming at kgnu.org). He hosts the Global Pie Society Facebook group celebrating National Pie Day on January 23: facebook.com/groups/piekind