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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Flavor Cycle's Local Food Delivery

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The U.S. Postal Service isn't the only operation that's been hit hard by digital delivery. For more than a century, bicycle messengers have rushed sensitive documents through downtowns all over the country, but they have seen business slow over the last decade. That's led some cyclists to find other work, including a group of underemployed San Francisco messengers that noticed several years ago that many of the city's restaurants and bodegas didn't offer delivery. They approached those businesses about delivering for them, creating their own independent courier service. It's now that city's largest employer of cyclists.

After covering those cyclists for his bike-themed COG Magazine, Milwaukee's Peter DiAntoni, himself a former bike messenger, was so inspired that he launched his own bike delivery service with a similar model. Flavor Cycle began operating this April with a team of 10 cyclists delivering for about a half dozen local restaurants. It now delivers for nearly three times as many, including BelAir Cantina, The Green Kitchen, Transfer, Café Corazón, Centro Café, the Riverwest Co-Op Café, Stonefly, Fuel Café and Verduras. A complete list of participating restaurants is at flavorcycle.com.

The service is simple. Customers place their orders directly through the restaurant—some charge a delivery fee, many don't—and the restaurant calls Flavor Cycle to handle the delivery. A cyclist delivers the food within 30 minutes.

"It's a fast process; the biggest wait is waiting for the food to be made," DiAntoni says. "People are often astounded by how quickly you can get somewhere on a bicycle in the city. There's no parking or traffic hassles to deal with."

Four months in, Flavor Cycle's business is slow, but growing. "We expect it to be slow for quite a while, until people become aware of us," DiAntoni says. "The few downtown offices that have discovered our service are just overjoyed. They're really excited about it, and in the meantime we have more restaurants signing on, so I figure, in a year's time, it'll be a steady business." Business could also pick up in the winter, since Flavor Cycle will offer year-round delivery.

"I'd love to see this become the model for more businesses," DiAntoni says. "We want to see as many cyclists on the road as we can. I think it'd be better for everyone. I can't tell you how often I see these delivery cars slide through the neighborhood. It blows my mind that somebody's going to get in their car and use fuel to deliver a sandwich in a bag. That's so wasteful."