Hoboken prides itself in being a home for small businesses, including it’s vast dining scene ranging from pizzerias, cafes, bars, and everything else in between.
But the COVID-19 pandemic had put a massive strain on those businesses. When in-person dining was risky last year, many patrons looked to delivery apps such as UberEats and GrubHub to get food. But some businesses had also seen a negative impact from said apps because of the hefty service fees and razor-thin profit margins.
One start up group in New Jersey now wants to give restaurants in the Mile Square City a new, locally based alternative to the big apps, partnering with a number of local businesses in a new service that aims to help them and residents save money.
Called Order Hoboken, the new service is created by Glyde, a startup company run by graduates from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The company focuses on restaurant services, starting with a program to help optimize restaurant operations, and then spun off into creating locally focused delivery services.
Samir Peshori, a founder of the team, said that the idea for making an app for restaurants stemmed from late 2019 when they were at a restaurant, it took about 45 minutes to get their check, and they learned that it took so long because a waiter had to handle an 11-way check at a nearby table.
“This was just more so to make certain technicalities in the restaurant, like taking an order, paying for an order, or split checks, etc., out of the equation and have them optimized and let the waiters focus on being the host more,” said Peshori.
The app that they made uses QR codes for diners to identify the restaurant and table, and allows them to order and pay for food within the app. Their app would then be used by a number of businesses as a method of contactless dining during the pandemic.
Glyde pivoted towards developing a delivery service this summer in their campus city of Newark called Order Newark, seeing that they want to help bring students from NJIT and Rugters University to a number of nearby restaurants.
The group then moved to working on Order Hoboken, as they had visited the city many times as students and saw that the scene was very good for restaurants. Since then, they’ve spent time approaching restaurants in the city and getting them on their platform; they also plan on creating a pop-up shop and contacting local influencers to promote the app.
The big pitch for Order Hoboken is the way they charge for fees on their app. Restaurants will pay 65 cents for pickup and 99 cents for delivery, while customers in the Hoboken area will pay a flat delivery fee of $4.99 regardless of the size of the order.
“Our goal is just get as many restaurants help them save money, and also expose what we’re trying to do with dining in the same light and then get the residents on board,” said Peshori.
A few restaurants that have partnered with Order Hoboken are giving the new venture a try. Ali Baba Restaurant, a Middle Eastern cuisine establishment, said it was tough getting by financially through the pandemic, having to pay insurance, workman’s compensation and rent. “I just put myself on the side, didn’t pay myself and put the money back in the business so that I can make sure that I survive it,” said owner Ibrahim Abbasi.
Abbasi said that after signing up with Order Hoboken, they’re ready to give them a chance. “If they’re good at their exposure, and they do so as well as online advertisement and stuff, I think they will be doing good,” he said. “If the business is ready to give them a chance, and they’re ready to do their part, I think together we can make something very good and affordable.”
Black Rail Coffee, a cafe in the city, saw their business shrank in half during the pandemic, and did online ordering and delivery to stay alive. Jin Woo Hong, the owner of the cafe, said that they used GrubHub for delivery, and when Order Hoboken was pitched to them, they liked the idea of having a community based service.
“I want to try something different like that,” said Hong. “Because every other person that calls me about another app or another delivery service, they seem to have the mentality that ‘we’re a small company, but we want to get big and we want to be the biggest’ and all of that. But the idea here just seems to be different.”
Hong describes his current deal with GrubHub as pretty good, but said that the app is always wanting more services.
“They want to offer me like more marketing services to get a bigger percentage of my order,” he said. “But honestly, I really use these services not to get more business, but to provide delivery and an easier way for my customers to to access us. I’m not really looking for that extra marketing, I just want to serve my local community.”
In the end, Peshori says that the goal of the new app is to make it easier for restaurants and patrons to order food, with the app launching this Monday.
“We saw Hoboken as a great place to make a local marketplace for them,” he said. “Hopefully the residents benefit from it and the restaurants do as well.”