Speaking with business owner Stephen Bandi, it’s obvious he’s an innovator. What began as a way to easily deliver juice for his juice bar business, d’Juice, has blossomed into d’Livery- an app that Bandi and his business partner, Andrew Herrington, are hoping will change the food delivery landscape for the better.
A truly local food delivery app
Bandi first had the idea when he developed a system of text messages, and eventually an in-house app, so juice could be easily delivered to customers of his juice bar. He then began expanding the idea to businesses that were located around the Magazine Street-based store. He discovered that the restaurants liked the idea of food delivery, but didn’t like the high fees that apps such as UberEats charge the restaurants.
“These apps take as much as 30% of the revenue and that cuts into the restaurant’s profits,” Bandi explained.
Determined to do something about it and help the restaurants, Bandi launched d’Livery, a New Orleans- based food delivery app, in July 2019.
“Our focus is local restaurant food delivery — not fast food,” he said. “Local restaurants work on a thin staff level, so every dollar counts. We wanted to create a system where we could get the food from the restaurant to the customer in the most efficient and affordable way possible.”
Delivery during a pandemic
When the app first launched, Bandi and Herrington picked the restaurants they wanted on the platform and went after them. However, during the pandemic, everything changed. Because food delivery became the easiest way for people to enjoy their favorite restaurants, the app exploded.
“When take-out and delivery became the way for people to ‘dine-out’, restaurants wanted to be a part of the app to connect with customers,” Bandi said.
Not only did the app become a lifeline for those who were unable to leave their homes due to the pandemic, but d’Livery worked to bring meals to those in desperate need in a difficult time.
“We worked with Chef’s Brigade and Revolution Foods for a COVID mass-feeding initiative,” Bandi said. “In the last 12 months, we’ve made over 400,000 home food deliveries.”
The team is working on the same initiative in cities like Nashville and Seattle.
On July 12, the d’Livery app reduced fees even further for restaurants, with a guarantee that the customers will also get the best deal on their food deliveries.
Bandi explained, “We’re going to have a $2.95 fixed delivery fee per restaurant. Other delivery apps include hidden fees that can add up, and customers are often over-charged in order to cover those fees. Sometimes the price on the menu on the website [for delivery] is a dollar or two higher than what you would see on the menu at the restaurant. We don’t allow a difference in in-restaurant and online menu pricing.”
In addition to the lower fees for restaurants and balanced prices for customers, d’Livery charges for “time and distance” to the customer. In other words, the delivery fee is the same no matter how expensive the food order is or how much food is ordered. While other delivery apps adjust their fees based on menu prices and the amount of food ordered, d’Livery charges a flat rate that is more customer-friendly.
Bandi and Herrington are also expanding the d’Livery system to include phone orders, because the team realizes that not everyone is app-savvy.
“Everybody wants the app to be the solution, but you can’t solve every problem with a computer,” Bandi explained. “Sometimes you need some H.I. — human intelligence. If you’re delivering food to the food insecure, you have to give people options. If you’re counting on food to live, you have to be able to talk to a live, local person. If you have an issue with an UberEats delivery, it could take 2 days for it to be resolved, and that’s unacceptable.”
What’s next for d’Livery
More changes to the app include opening the app to non-restaurant merchants. While this part of the app is still in its early stages, Bandi hopes that local businesses will get on board.
“We see it as a way to encourage people to shop local, rather than on Amazon,” he said.
The app has also launched a “concierge” system on their website and in-app where customers can communicate with a virtual “help desk” from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The service is there to solve problems or just help make last-minute restaurant reservations.
“We invite people to use us to find solutions for everything such as lost keys or making hotel or concert arrangements,” Bandi said. “Let’s say you want Maroon 5 to play your daughter’s birthday party. I’m not saying we can absolutely make that happen, but we will try to figure out a way to make that a reality.”
Bandi said that he and his team have been having fun trying to solve problems and they are always thinking of ways to make the d’Livery system better. He knows that one of the most important parts of a successful delivery business is the drivers.
“We wake up every day with the desire to take care of our customers and drivers,” he explained. “We offer paid vacation time for drivers- the more they work, the more they earn. We want the drivers to know that they are a valuable part of our company; we’re building a sustainable business where everyone will be able to benefit.”
Bandi said that d’Livery, which has even expanded its delivery services to in-seat vending at NOLA Gold Rugby games and has plans to expand its delivery app to Baton Rouge, is ready for any challenge that comes their way.
“We are logistics providers,” he said. “Tell me what you need me to do — every day, we’re ready to try something new.”