Restaurant testing pedal power

By KATIE BEVAN

neighborhoods@columbiamissourian.com

A downtown franchise is testing bike delivery to its customers close by.

While it’s too soon to say if bike delivery will be good for business, it’s already been good for morale.

“I get to ride my bike and get paid for it. I love it,” said James Sanders, a delivery biker for Noodles & Company, which began the service on Aug. 4.

Daniel Andrews, manager of the restaurant on Ninth Street on the edge of campus, said that delivery by car was never an option. It’s not just that bikes are easier and cheaper in terms of insurance and gas reimbursement; cycling is also more environmentally conscious, he said.

“There is a push to think about what we’re doing to the planet,” he said.

One of his former co-workers came up with the idea of using bicycles.

“I said, ‘Well, let’s do it,’” Andrews said. “Nobody has ever done this within my company. We wanted to get a feel for it.”

The efficiency of bicycle delivery also played a part in the decision. When talking about the time it takes to deliver by car, Andrews knows cycling is faster.

“The longest anyone has had to wait is 30 to 40 minutes,” he said. “You can wait an hour and a half for pizza. But the average delivery time is 15 to 20 minutes.”

So far there have been no major problems, “just little hiccups,” Andrews said. The straps on the temporary bags bought for carrying deliveries broke and left food  scattered all over the street. A more stable way to carry orders is in the works.

The delivery area is a two-mile radius from the restaurant including MU, Columbia College, Stephens College, downtown and East Campus, Boone Hospital Center and University Hospital.

Greektown is the most popular delivery spot so far, but people in all the covered areas have been using the service.

“There is a huge population within a few miles, giving us the ability to reach a large amount of people,” Andrews said.

There are other restaurants downtown that deliver, but cars are the transportation of choice for most. Hotbox Cookies will deliver on foot at times, if the destination is downtown. Sub Shop on Eighth Street has a couple of employees that deliver by bike but still mainly uses cars.

Because the Noodles service is still fairly new, there is only one delivery biker per shift, with about four cyclists on the roster in total. The restaurant gets 12-15 delivery orders on a good day, and around 5-10 on a bad day.

But for Sanders, there is no such thing as a bad day.

“Everybody here wants bike delivery shifts,” he said. “The tips are better.”

He also likes that the system is low on environmental impact. While this is kind to Mother Nature, she is not always kind back.

“Before we got our new shirts, we wore black. You really do sweat,” Sanders said. The biker team got white shirts with the Noodles logo recently, which helped with the heat.

Sanders expects winter to be a challenge.

“I might have to invest in some better tires,” he said. “I hope they give me a hoodie to wear.”

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Filed under Columbia College, Downtown Columbia, East Campus, Stephens College, University of Missouri

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