Richard Hernández bought Sabor Rico Bakery (formerly known as A&Y) in Philadelphia's Franklinville neighborhood in December 2019, three months before the pandemic hit. He didn't even get the chance to change the store's sign before he found himself struggling to keep his small business open.
While managing the store, the Puerto Rican business owner supervised the quality of his pastries, pan sobao, and hefty Caribbean breakfasts of green plantains with pork, chicken, and ham. He also took orders to customers' doorsteps throughout Philadelphia when restaurants could only offer pickup or delivery services.
With no access to PPP loans and three of his five employees on furlough, Hernández, 44, said it all felt like an uphill battle. He found himself relying on delivery services from Grubhub. Because of the 30% Grubhub commission on each order, he increased his prices for some meals and offered more modest combo meals. He wasn't happy.
"Why would I have to change the Hispanic morning tradition of flavorful breads and tasty breakfasts to keep this running?" he asked. "I've sacrificed my personal finances and so much [family] time just to keep my customer satisfied."
In March, Hernández learned about Víctor Tejada and his company, Delivery Guys, a technology-based food delivery service start-up based in Philadelphia aimed at supporting the needs of restaurants and small businesses.
Tejada, 35, founded Delivery Guys based on his own experience. The graphics and software designer had been delivering food during most of the pandemic, after he left Comcast to launch his first start-up, which failed last year.
As he delivered meals with Grubhub for large franchises and smaller restaurants, he learned that the logistics and programming systems of giant delivery service companies weren't sensitive to the realities — such as one-employee sites and limited access to capital — of small business owners, especially those run by marginalized entrepreneurs.
"Many customers and business owners needed to reach out to each other or speak with the drivers about changes in the orders, a delay, or complaints, and that was very difficult to address in real time," Tejada said. "And our business owners kept fussing about the service, being expensive and late to their customers."
"type":"video So, he brainstormed his idea with local restaurateurs to center the food delivery service company around their needs. Then, he incorporated the Delivery Guys App, a system he developed and programmed for iOS and Android smart phones.
The company now has about 50 drivers working with eight food preparers and convenience stores owned by Dominican, Puerto Rican, American, Nigerian, and Vietnamese entrepreneurs in West, North, and Northeast Philly. More than 50% of the drivers are women who mostly work part-time.