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Restaurants hammered by fees charged by popular food delivery apps soon may have a local takeout delivery alternative.

The people behind the Good Foods Project hope it will be a made-in-London answer to technology giants like UberEats and Skip the Dishes that dominate the market for restaurant meal delivery.

“It was just a passion project, just an idea: What if we could find a better way of doing this for London restaurants?” said Heenal Rajani of the Reimagine Institute for Community Sustainability.

What was once a side avenue, sending food out for delivery via smartphone apps became one of the only options when outdoor patios closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The problem? With fees as high as 20 per cent and 30 per cent, restaurants don’t make much — if any — money.

“That unprofitable business became (restaurants’) main business. They kind of got screwed with it,” said Marcello Vecchio, project co-ordinator of the Food Retail Environment Study for Health & Economic Resiliency (FRESHER) effort at Western University’s Human Environments Analysis Laboratory, or HEAL.


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But with many restaurants hesitant to drop delivery apps for fear of losing orders, not to mention promotion and name recognition, most eateries were barely staying afloat.

“Some places are even boarding up, shuttering up. Everyone’s lifestyle changes, you’re no longer just popping out to eat. You’re picking up takeout or ordering in,” Rajani said. “It’s not just London, it’s happening everywhere.”

The ReImagine Institute, an offshoot of the downtown zero-waste grocer that Rajani and wife Kara Rijnen own, worked with Sunfest and HEAL to assess the idea of a local food delivery platform.

The non-profit group recently applied for a cut of city hall’s COVID-19 recovery cash. Council unanimously approved $9,800 for the Good Foods Project to pay for the online platform, web development and some marketing.


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The project aims to start with 10 restaurants in the downtown and Old East Village over the next 10 months, expand to about 50 restaurants the following year — and perhaps a smartphone app — before hitting 100-plus in 2023.

The expansion comes with other targets, too, such as diverting food to homeless Londoners and giving a cut of revenue to food security and other community programs.

That’s one way to entice customers, Vecchio said.

Many communities have tried to launch local competitors to UberEats and other big-name apps, but often they aren’t as successful as anticipated, he said. Attaching a community investment element has proven popular with nascent platforms that have survived, including one in Windsor called Jubzi that recently expanded to Kingston.


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“It creates the ability for people to see, I can get some good food, support local business, and also support the community,” rather than paying tech giants, Vecchio said.

Setting up a competitor is no small feat, especially when stacked up against well-known companies that boast thousands of restaurants with a few clicks.

“There’s the chicken and the egg thing: You need the businesses signed up and on it before the customers want it, but for the businesses, it’s got to be worth their time,” Vecchio said.

The Good Foods plan is to start with delivery during peak hours. Hiring delivery drivers is in the plans, but at first that will be contracted out, he said. And they’ll count on London’s business improvement associations to help spread the word.

But Rajani said he and his team know they can offer lower fees.

“We know it’s a challenge,” he said. “We give it a shot because it’s something we believe in.”

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