When 22-year-old entrepreneur Chris Lester moved back to his hometown of Shawnee in December, he quickly realized he was perfectly suited to fit a niche the city needed — and he wasted no time putting his plan into action. After being back home just a couple weeks, he established his own food delivery service.
Now it's six weeks later and he's already had to boost his pace to keep up with demand.
Lester's fiancee, Montana Cotton, has left her job to operate the dispatching of food orders, and three more drivers have been hired — with Lester anticipating the challenges of still more rapid growth now that news of his service is catching on.
Just a few weeks ago his orders were coming in at five or 10 per day, he said; now he gets more than 20 calls a day.
“We have been growing very quickly around Shawnee,” he said.
How it works
Residents who, like Lester, find themselves tired of the longtime delivery king — pizza — can now choose meals from other restaurants in town that don't offer their own shuttle service.
He said his business allows residents to go to his site online, choose among a (growing) list of restaurants, complete an order from the chosen menu and then track it until his company pulls up in the driveway.
“Payment can be made online when ordering or by cash at the time of delivery,” he said. “They can also call us to make an order.”
Typically the tacked-on delivery fee is around $3.99 — that is the norm for anyone within a five-mile radius, he said. After that, 50 cents is charged for each extra mile.
Lester said he has been working to build partnerships with local restaurants to add options and to make the process as smooth as possible.
Equipping his partners with iPads for making orders is a step he has implemented to boost accuracy and efficiency as much as he can.
“Our drivers can check a bag or box and count items when they pick it up, but they can't exactly unwrap a meal to ensure small details (example: no tomatoes) are correct,” he said. “We'll do what we can.”
Non-partnering restaurants aren't out of the picture though, they just may not be as streamlined a process when ordering, he said.
Not to worry, Lester said he is still growing his partnerships by the day, and uses online feedback from customers to make his service the best it can be.
With menus on his site, he has worked to make ordering as convenient as possible, he said.
Lester said his outfit is perfect for larger orders, like catering when there's a big game day or a party that hosts need to attend to.
“Response has been great,” he said. “I'll do whatever I can to take care of my customers.”
He said in just the short time his business has been operating the team's Facebook page has already logged more than 1,300 Likes.
Why food delivery?
Lester said when he moved to Georgia for school, there were food delivery services set up there. He became a real fan of the convenience it offered.
“I used to get so tired of pizza, which is about the only thing around here that offers delivery,” he said.
Lester said it only made sense to make other types of food available that same way.
He said he always knew he wanted to run a business someday, he just didn't know what it was going to be — until now.
He said his endeavor is all about making things convenient for his customers.
“I'm learning more every day,” he said, “and I love seeing the business grow.”
That's not the only thing he loves to see.
“It makes me happy when I get to see repeat customers,” he said, noting the bond he's already building within the community.
“I like what I'm doing; it's fun,” he said.
Though Lester has his sights firmly fixed on where the road leads, it's not just to a customer's house, but also to other services and areas where he can take his venture.
“We're hoping to expand to Tecumseh at some point,” he said. “Not only that, but start grocery delivery, too.”
Lester said he has an app in the works, and he is constantly tweaking menus and services online.
As long as an order is a few bucks, Lester said he really requires very little as far as a minimum purchase goes.
“If someone wants to order some Sonic drinks and are willing to pay delivery, why not?” he said.
He also has been offering promotions — like $2 off a first order — so watch for codes online, he said.
“I'm trying to give the customers some incentive to try us out,” he said.
To check out Shawnee Delivery, go online to shawneedelivery.com, visit Facebook and search “Shawnee Delivery” or call (405) 334-8195 between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.