Imagine a rainy Friday night when you’ve got a craving for a burrito from Anna’s Taqueria but little motivation to leave your apartment to buy one. Ordinarily you’d be out of luck, since Anna’s doesn’t usually deliver.
But thanks to Dashed, a Boston-based company that rents cars to delivery drivers, Anna’s and other small restaurants can get that burrito to your door, rain or not.
Dashed has been connecting self-employed delivery drivers with local restaurants for several years now, with the couriers providing their own vehicles. But by the end of this weekend, Dashed will have a fleet of its own vehicles in Boston — 12 SmartCars it will rent to drivers for just $15 a night — which should make it even easier for restaurants to add delivery service to their menus.
“We normally don’t deliver, so it’s definitely helped us increase our revenue and also our reach to parts of the city where we don’t have restaurants,” said Michael Kamio, founder of Anna’s Taqueria. “Phil [Dumontet] runs a tight operation — very professional — and the drivers deliver our food on time.”
The new setup looks like a pretty good deal for the drivers, too.
For $15, any of the company’s approved drivers can book a car for an eight-hour shift. Dashed covers the gas — though the cars don’t use much, since all are hybrid or electric SmartCars — and pays the drivers commissions of about $4 on each delivery. Restaurants pay Dashed a 30 percent commission on orders. Couriers also earn tips from customers.
“I definitely prefer the SmartCar,” said Hugo Cruz, a Dashed driver who had been making deliveries in his own Ford Explorer before renting one of the first new cars. “It’s a fun car to drive, and it’s really easy to maneuver and park in the city. It’s probably added seven or eight deliveries to my shift, and that’s more money.”
The SmartCars are tiny, two-door vehicles with just enough space on their hoods and doors to squeeze in advertisements from partner restaurants. Anna’s bought ad space on two of the cars, though any vehicle can deliver for any restaurant.
Dumontet launched Dashed in 2009 as a bicycle-riding sole proprietor after graduating from Boston College. He noticed many popular local restaurants did not bother with delivery because it seemed like too much of a hassle — creating a dispatch system, insuring cars, and fielding complaints.
But if someone else would handle the grunt work, Dumontet reasoned, the same restaurants might view delivery as an additional revenue stream, instead of a headache.
“That’s the pitch,” Dumontet said. “The restaurant could be packed to the gills, but they may still have more capacity in their kitchen to pump out more food. Or when it’s raining and nobody is in their restaurants, we help them maintain their volume without crashing on those rainy days.”
Today, the company contracts with about 500 restaurants and 100 couriers in five East Coast cities who have, until now, used their own cars, bikes, and scooters. For now, Boston is the only city with a rental fleet. Restaurants pay the same 30 percent whether the drivers are using their own cars or the Dashed ones.
Managing delivery orders for so many restaurants could be a logistical nightmare. Conveniently, Dumontet’s brother, Christian, is cofounder of takeout-ordering business Foodler, whose website and mobile app take orders for every Dashed client, all in one place. So the one hitch is that customers have to go through Foodler to have their takeout delivered by Dashed. The addition of a rental car fleet in Boston will help Dashed expand its business and hire more drivers — Dumontet has been hiring four or five per week lately, and expects the growth to continue.
“They’ll go pick up and make the delivery as they have before, but just in a cleaner, more environmentally friendly, sharper-looking vehicle,” Dumontet said.Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.