Online ordering meets home delivery at Restaurant Connection.
Keli Gilbertson, general manager for Restaurant Connection, headed back to her car with an order from Origami in Minneapolis, Min., Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Restaurant Connection, San Diego-based company provides more than 30 Twin Cities restaurants with home delivery service.
Home-delivered pizza, a staple of the American lifestyle, is getting some competition from an online company that home-delivers everything from sandwiches to Thai food in the Twin Cities.
The Restaurant Connection of San Diego accepts home delivery orders for Twin Cities restaurants via Web page or telephone. The company notifies the restaurants, waits for the food to be prepared, then mobilizes its Twin Cities team for home delivery.
Dustin Hansen, the owner of Restaurant Connection, said in an interview that he started the business in California in 2008, and later expanded to Minneapolis, Denver and Boise, Idaho, markets he thought were ripe for the service.
"Restaurants don't want to deliver for themselves," Hansen said. "It's a big project that takes away from their food business."
The firm began signing up restaurants in the Twin Cities about three years ago, and has added about 10 in the last three months, he said. The 30 local restaurants it serves include Fuji Ya (sushi), Keys Cafe (sandwiches) and Caspian Bistro (Mediterranean).
Deliveries start at 10 a.m. and go to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:45 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
In Minneapolis and suburbs, the delivery typically costs consumers $3.95 plus a gratuity that equals 15 percent of the order. (The maximum delivery distance is about 12 miles, and those more than two miles away pay more for delivery.)
In St. Paul, the delivery fee is $5.95 plus a 15 percent gratuity. (Hansen said there aren't enough restaurants using the service in St. Paul to justify the lower Minneapolis delivery fee.)
Twin Cities restaurants typically pay Restaurant Connection one-fourth the list price of a food order, Hansen said.
When a restaurant signs up, Restaurant Connection puts the client's menu on its website (restaurantconnectionusa.com), then e-mails or faxes take-out orders to the restaurant, Hansen said. His firm also calls restaurants to confirm that orders were received.
Restaurant Connection aims to deliver food in 45 to 60 minutes, Hansen said. But, judging from comments on food service review websites, the company hasn't always met its delivery time goals.
"We deliver tens of thousands of orders, so some problems will happen," Hansen said. "If customers are unhappy, we'll try to maintain the relationship by giving them free food or future discounts."
Twin Cities restaurants contacted by the Star Tribune said they're happy with the delivery service.
For some, the service is a way to boost revenue by outsourcing a delivery business they didn't really want to be in.
"We always wanted to deliver food ourselves, but it's quite the undertaking. It almost turns into a separate business," said Brad Bridwell, general manager of the Old Chicago pizza restaurant on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis. "For somebody else to do it for us at a reasonable price is more than welcome. We're happy with the service, their employees represent themselves well as our couriers, and our business volume has increased."
Others see it as a way to increase business while cutting costs during slower days of the week.
"I was doing all my own home deliveries, but I switched over to Restaurant Connection for Monday through Thursday deliveries because I can save on labor," said Bob Torbenson, owner of the Thai food restaurant Sawatdee on Lake Street in Minneapolis. "I've gotten a good 15 percent increase in business overall."
For restaurants that have never had home delivery, it's an easy way to try out the service.
"We did minimal home delivery before, mostly large orders for parties," said Andi Blommel, manager of the Granite City Food & Brewery in St. Louis Park. "We just started this service three weeks ago as a way to reach out to guests."
The results can be surprising.
"We're known for our pizza, but the bulk of our home deliveries are sandwiches, salads and appetizers," said Bridwell, of Old Chicago. "That's fine. Everybody delivers pizza."
Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553