Delivery on demand: Charlotte leading farm- and restaurant-delivery options | Crain's

Delivery on demand: Charlotte leading farm- and restaurant-delivery options

The Queen City is known for its food scene, from the posh uptown eateries to the foodie hotspots popping up in the outskirts and in small strip malls. But Charlotte is also known for its seemingly never-ending traffic jams. What if there was a way to bring the farm to the table without leaving your house? There is. In fact, there are plenty of ways. 

If it's vegan, gluten-free, organic food you hope to find on your doorstep, that's an option. Or, if you'd prefer to get takeout from your favorite Queen City eatery – without the added 45-minute drive – that's an option, as well. It seems there's something for everyone when it comes to at-home delivery service, even if it's just to recreate comfort food classics on your table without ever stepping foot in the kitchen.

That includes Nourish Charlotte. In a world where Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Sun Basket – just to name a few – are leading the home-delivery service industry, and cluttering your mailbox and email inbox with coupons, this Charlotte company believes it has a leg up on its national competition by offer truly local, fresh, organic food.

In fact, Julia Simon, founder, manager and executive chef at Nourish Charlotte, said her business is nothing like its national competitors.

“We are fundamentally different from those companies in that we deliver only 100 percent prepared food – fresh, never frozen – to offices and homes all over North Carolina and South Carolina,” Simon said. “So, if you truly don’t have time to cook and you want fabulously health, plant-based, verdant food in your life, we’re your one-stop shop.”

Nourish Charlotte’s commitment to local farmers and purveyors is among its four founding principles.

“We not only nourish ourselves and our customers, but the local farming economy, as well,” Simon said. “As a nutrient-dense food purveyor, fresh-picked, organic or pesticide-free produce contains exponentially more vitamins, minerals and nutrients than even organic produce shipping from California or Mexico.”

Simon started Nourish Charlotte in 2012, after working as a personal chef for families with both food allergies and wellness challenges throughout the Queen City.

“My roster grew quickly and I saw a need for scaling the work I was doing with locally sourced, gluten-free, vegan food that was both convenient and accessible to people.”

A “logistics-whiz” business partner helped Simon build Nourish Charlotte and then launch delivery services a few years later.

“The industry is in its infancy or childhood for sure,” Simon said. “As lives become busier, needs continually arise for time-saving products, and we are nothing if not that. A lot of our marketing focuses on the ‘gifts of time and health’ conversation. Going to the farmers’ market, making sure your cabinets are stocked, creating flavors that the whole family loves and finishing meals every night just takes too long for more working families. That’s where we come in."

As far as the industry's future, Simon said drone delivery service might soon be on the horizon.

“I think we’ll see drone tech start to grow enormously, and shipping food longer and longer distances will be the norm. Even now, every diet niche you can think of has at least one or two companies on each coast servicing them,” she said.

From a regulatory perspective, Nourish Charlotte’s commissary-style kitchen is inspected by the N.C. Department of Health like other restaurants and businesses that prepare food. The kitchen also doubles as an incubator space for fledgling vegan businesses.

Blazing the trail

Charlotte, it seems, has been ahead of the curve when it comes to delivery services for the busy working family. Switching gears to a much different business model, Samuel Hanna, the owner of TakeHome Delivery, founded the restaurant-delivery service in 2011 to meet an unfilled need.

“I also anticipated that one day the idea of food delivery would catch on, given my experience working in my family’s seafood delivery business,” Hanna said. “We provide a remote dining experience for our customers by training our mobile waiters to deliver the same level or service one would expect from a waiter at a dine-in restaurant.”

More than 50 Charlotte restaurants are featured on TakeHome’s website, and maitre d' delivery services are available for more than 100 area restaurants. The business model is based on a delivery fee, not menu price surcharges. Delivery charges begin at $4.99.

“The industry has been around for years,” Hanna said. “The concept has seen a sudden burst in interest because technology has finally caught up with the service model. In the next year, we’ll be looking to expand our reach to more of Charlotte and finding high-value restaurant partners. In the next five to 10 years, TakeHome will be in the service model, but the way we provide the service will look significantly different because of advances in technology."

As for the customers, Hanna hopes to provide “a sense of relief that their busy lives have been made somewhat simpler knowing that we are working hard to deliver a great dining experience with Southern hospitality.”

Charlotte’s Foodie Call also offers local delivery seven days a week to multiple restaurants, from Ben and Jerry’s locations to eateries such as Magnolia’s and BlackFinn Ameripub. Doorstep Delivery has been serving the Queen City since 2008. Customers can order online or by app.

Heart and Soul Chef Delivery Service offers “plain ol’ everyday food for everyday people.” They cook and deliver pasta, casseroles, meat-and-potato dishes, as well as Italian, Asian, Mexican, Cajun and Southern dishes.

May 18, 2017 - 7:34am