Waffle House / A Waffle for the Road
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The sharing economy connects waffle restaurants and drivers
Roadie, a peer-to-peer shipping startup, has partnered with US restaurant chain Waffle House.
Roadie, which has been described as Uber for package delivery, is a mobile app that connects people with items to send with drivers travelling in the right direction. Through its partnership with Roadie, Waffle House is positioning itself as safe place for drivers and senders to meet up. Roadie drivers will receive a free waffle when they sign up to the app and free drinks when they meet up with the package sender at a Waffle House restaurant.
Waffle House, which has more than 1,750 restaurants across 25 states, is promoting the partnership with signage in-store.
‘For the last 60 years, Waffle House has been a place for travellers and a preferred meeting place for our customers,’ said Walt Ehmer, CEO of Waffle House. ‘Roadie combines the two making it easy for senders and drivers who love waffles to meet at the nearest Waffle House. And who doesn’t love waffles?‘
Roadie calls itself the ‘neighbour to neighbour shipping network’. The service is especially useful for shippers who want to send oversized or especially heavy items, or don’t want to pay UPS or FedEx extra fees for expedited delivery. Senders post photos and descriptions of the items they’re looking to ship on the app, and then a Roadie driver can select the ones they’d like to help deliver. Senders can then schedule a time for the delivery and track their stuff as it travels to the required destination. In return, the Roadie drivers can get paid between $8 and $20 for each ‘Gig’, while long distance jobs with oversized items can earn them up to $200.
Waffle House is the first in what Roadie hopes will be a network of ‘Roadhouses’ offering Roadies discounts and offers on food and gas when they’re on the road.
Launched earlier this year, Roadie has been downloaded more than 7,500 times. The statup recently completed a $10m Series A financing round and has received backing from shipping company UPS’s Strategic Enterprise Fund, Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures and Square Co-founder Jim McKelvey, among others. Roadie currently operates across ten Southeastern states but has plans to roll out across the US.
Contagious Insight /
Why Waffles? / Of all the retailers or restaurants Roadie could be using as its first ‘roadhouse’, Waffle House makes a lot of sense. It has a vast network of restaurants open 24 hours a day and it’s already used as a rest stop or meeting place for drivers. As Pat Warner, Waffle House’s VP of Culture, told TechCrunch, the partnership with Roadie is ‘a natural extension of what our restaurants are right now. We’re kind of a meeting place, a gathering place for people in the community now. We’re along the interstate, so a lot of people use us as landmarks and meeting places already.’
Power of people / In our Distributed Delivery trend we investigated how new technologies and networks are being used to improve last mile delivery. In particular, we’ve tracked how peer-to-peer networks are alleviating the costs and complications of delivery for shipping companies and retailers. Deutsche Post DHL launched a pilot in Sweden paying members of the public to deliver parcels to online shoppers. Meanwhile, Walmart is exploring a platform where shoppers could deliver other customers’ online purchases.
What’s interesting about this collaboration between Roadie and Waffle House is that it relies on two networks: the restaurant chain’s many outlets and a band of drivers at the ready. Click and collect services are already widely used by retailers: McKinsey reports that in the US, 40% of Best Buy’s and more than 50% of Walmart’s online sales are picked up in stores. This partnership merges the idea of using a retail or restaurant space as a collection point, with the sharing economy philosophy of using a ‘regular’ person to do a job previously only done by a delivery professional.
It shows the potential for startups and retailers to work together to offer a more creative solution to last mile delivery than FedEx currently does. That’s why this partnership reminds us of what Scott Galloway, NYU stern professor and trademark analyst, said at a conference earlier this year. Stating that Amazon’s Achilles heel was shipping, he envisaged the online retailer making a bricks and mortar acquisition to solve this problem, for instance, by buying a US gas station chain.
We’ll have to wait and see how successful Roadie, and its system of rewarding drivers with cash and discounts, is. But seeing as delivery costs are shooting up, we’re not surprised to see yet another startup trying to solve this problem. If Roadie really is able to create a trusted network of retailers and delivery people, then it will be able to build on it to do more than just ship people’s Craiglist purchases.
Uber is the best example of how building a great network can transform your offering, as the company is moving beyond just getting people from A to B and towards moving their stuff now too. As Shervin Pishevar, entrepreneur and Uber board member, said in an interview with Inc: ‘Uber is building a digital mesh, a grid that goes over cities. Once you have that grid running, in everyone’s pockets, there is a lot of potential for what you can build as a platform.’
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