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Oct 19, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘bike delivery’

A bike-side chat with Griffin Delivery’s Andy Heaslet

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013



Andy Heaslet had to change the name of his South Grand Delivered restaurant-delivery service to Griffin Delivery for the best of reasons: He expanded his territory to downtown. More territory means more adventures, like the strange interludes with a customer known as “The Hand.”

1. Which restaurants’ food does Griffin Delivery deliver now?

Lunch downtown from Lola, Pickles Deli, Tortilla Grille, Joe’s Chili Bowl at Citygarden, and the downtown Local Harvest Cafe, and lunch and dinner in South City from Mangia Italiano, MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse, Natty’s Pizza, Orkeed Restaurant, Wei Hong and the Local Harvest Cafe near Tower Grove Park.

2. How do the couriers carry the food?

The bikes have a box-rack that attaches to the seat post. It weighs maybe three to five pounds, and when you add 10 to 15 pounds of food into it, it changes the way you have to ride your bike. The tail likes to wag the dog. You have to use your abs more and control your handlebars more. The drivers get strong really quickly. Other couriers only work with burrito and sandwich places because you can just throw it in the backpack. We can’t do that with blackened tilapia from Mangia; it wouldn’t be fair to the food. We use an insulated box big enough to hold five 18-inch pizzas or 12 box lunches, and we have bigger boxes, too.

3. What’s the strangest moment one of your couriers has had?

One that seems to happen repeatedly is when you’re knocking on the door for a really long time and then finally a woman comes to the door holding her robe closed and needs two hands to take the food and sign the receipt, and we get a show. (Laughs) Then there’s one customer who wouldn’t let us see her face. The door would open just like, six inches, a hand would come out to take the food and then the hand would come back to give the courier a stack of quarters. We called that customer “The Hand.”

4. Can you share your future plans, for more restaurants that might be added to Griffin? I think we’ve got SweetArt coming early next year in South City, and we have four or five informal commitments from other restaurants.

5. Can you guys deliver soup without spilling it? We’ve done more than 1,000 deliveries in two years and on only four or five occasions did we have to go back to the restaurant because the food got screwed up in transit. Our gear, our setup is really effective. We sometimes ask the restaurants to wrap soup containers in Saran wrap, too. We don’t yet do coffee, but we’re not far away from figuring that out. 

6. Describe the process of making the jump from South City to parts beyond. We had the idea more than a year ago to come downtown. We did Bike to My Lou, the downtown community bike ride and festival, with Blake Bailey grilling hamburgers, in the spring. That was our downtown coming-out party. Now that we’re there, it’s almost like starting over. We’re re-building our brand identity and spreading the word again that you can get meals delivered on a bicycle quickly and affordably. Another new thing is downtown traffic, which is ridiculous. The taxis and limos can be aggressive, and the people who come downtown once every six months for a Cardinals game drive like a deer frozen in the headlights. (Laughs)

8. Your business is awfully green, as they say; I understand you come from a non-profit background, too? I want to run my for-profit with the same passion and compassion I had when I was running a non-profit. That was called the Peace Economy Project; it was about building an economy based more on peaceful endeavors than the military-industrial complex. The new business is environmentally conscious, fun and makes a profit. We’re still working on that last one, but my heart’s in it, and that’s the important thing. The famous activist Percy Green heard my idea for the restaurant/bike- delivery business and he encouraged me to go for it, so I pursued it. I had almost given it up.

9. What did you do before that? I was a professional mascot in college: “Slapshot” the polar bear, with the Indianapolis Ice of the Central Hockey League. Then I was also the Butler University Bulldog. The team was not used to great success. When we got to the Sweet 16 for the first time no one on campus knew what to do. (Laughs) I think my craziest moment as a mascot was when I was crowd-surfing over people and I unintentionally came to a stop atop an old lady, and I thought I’d broken every bone in her body. Then a guy stuck his finger in the polar bear’s face, which was a little higher than my face, and said, “Not cool, Slapshot. Not cool.” I felt bad, but as a mascot I couldn’t speak so I just had to mime that I was sorry. (Laughs) Then, after college, I did the Peace Corps in Paraguay, doing rural economic development.

10. The way people order from you is so cool – customers click what they want online, right from the restaurant’s menu, but at your website. We use software called Big Tree Solutions, which was created by the same guy who started Tiger’s Takeout in Columbia, Mo. We had a friend customize it for us to give it some flair, and we’re really happy with it. Our sales have gone up by 50 percent each month we’ve used it. That’s a rate of growth that was inconceivable a year ago.

11. Why “Griffin”? In our logo, we originally used silhouettes of the griffins that protect the east side of Tower Grove Park, so we kept that.

12. What’s Griffin’s delivery charge? Five bucks, but we’re looking at a zone-based fee, ranging from $3.14 on up, with a tiered structure. Once we have Soulard and Benton Park covered, we’re thinking about changing that.

13. How fast can you deliver? Our default estimate time is 45 minutes, but our average is in the mid 30s. It depends on how long it takes the restaurant to make the food; a pizza takes longer than a sandwich.

14. What do the bike couriers do if they have downtime between deliveries? They hang out in coffeehouses and restaurants. I love having my folks go out and take pictures and play on Instagram and Twitter. I’m also trying to get them to hand out Griffin Delivery stickers if they like.

15. It looks like on your site you’re asking the customer to put the tip on before delivery. The customers do have the option of giving it to the couriers when they get to door. The site reminds the customer of what 20 percent is, regardless, which is a good thing. Also, the customers often just want the transaction to be over; they want to have the convenience of signing their names and getting to the eating.

16. What should the prepared bicyclist always carry with him/her? A tire lever, a fresh tube, a patch kit, and a CO2 cartridge or a hand pump. There are so many bike shops in St. Louis, that’s great, too. In the winter, you might want to carry long johns and extra gloves, also. It’s no fun when you leave the house when it’s 50 degrees and come home when it’s 30 degrees and you’re not prepared.

17. You deliver through all kinds of inclement weather, too. Yeah. Last winter was pretty nice; it was so mild. We say that if you can drive your car to work, we can probably ride our bikes. “Black ice” is a different story. We can walk our bikes for a little rather than ride them, if it gets really bad.

18. Do you see your company growing into more neighborhoods? Sure. We’d love to have four or five neighborhood branches. I don’t ever see us going west of I-170, but serving more of the inner core of the city and the inner ring of suburbs. But it’s one step at a time for now. We’d love to connect South City and downtown by serving Lafayette Square, Soulard and Benton Park.

See the full list of restaurants available at Griffin Delivery at griffindelivery.com 314.270.2276.

— photo by Laura Miller


The Scoop: Bike-based restaurant delivery service now serving downtown

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Griffin Delivery, a bike-based restaurant delivery service, recently added the downtown community to its service area. Griffin has been serving South City since its inception in August of 2010. Currently, Griffin offers lunch delivery from two downtown establishments: Pickles Deli and Tortilla Grille. According to owner Andy Heaslet, partnerships with more restaurants are expected in the weeks ahead. “We have at least two more in the bag and an exciting meeting this week,” he said. Griffin offers downtown delivery service weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. to an area bounded by 21st Street, Delmar Boulevard, Cole Street, Interstate 70 and Highway 40.

Customers interested in using Griffin Delivery service can place orders on the company website or by calling 314.270.2276. Griffin contacts the restaurant and then informs customers when they can expect their food. Deliveries to downtown average approximately 30 minutes from the time that the order is placed, said Heaslet. The company charges a $5 delivery fee.

Heaslet also noted that he expects more restaurants to be added to the South City delivery area. Currently, Heaslet and his team of cyclists tote food from Local Harvest Cafe, MoKaBe’s, Orkeed Restaurant, Wei Hong, Mangia Italiano and Natty’s Pizza. Delivery service runs from Sunday through Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 to 10:30 p.m.

And what about inclement weather? Will the Griffin bike team really come out in rain, sleet or snow? “Absolutely,” responded Heaslet.

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