New ‘937 Delivers’ could help Dayton restaurants survive pandemic, founders say

Amy Beaver, owner of Butter Cafe and Glo Juice Bar on Brown Street in Dayton, has signed on early to be part of "937 Delivers," a local co-op meal-delivery service. CONTRIBUTED
Amy Beaver, owner of Butter Cafe and Glo Juice Bar on Brown Street in Dayton, has signed on early to be part of "937 Delivers," a local co-op meal-delivery service. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Amy Beaver, owner of Butter Café and the nearby Glo Juice Bar + Cafe on Brown Street, is tired of watching her restaurants’ money go out the door along with every food delivery order.

“The amount of money that third-party delivery companies take from restaurants is the worst,” said Beaver, who pays a fee of 30 percent for orders delivered by such companies, which include DoorDash, Grubhub, UberEats and others. “It just doesn’t make sense anymore to keep doing it this way.”

Beaver and other owners of independent Dayton-area restaurants are coming together, with help from local agencies and supporters, to launch their own delivery service, to be called “937 Delivers.”

The delivery service will be cooperatively owned by its member restaurants and the drivers who deliver the food, 937 Delivers’ founders say. And it is designed to help local restaurants survive the pandemic while also putting laid-off restaurant employees back to work during a surge in COVID-19 cases across the Miami Valley and Ohio — a surge that is threatening to shut down dine-in service for a second time.

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The delivery service will allow participating restaurants to save money by avoiding paying fees charged by national third-party delivery companies, according to Shanon Morgan, president of the Miami Valley Restaurant Association, and Brian Johnson, who is overseeing marketing and development of 937 Delivers. Those fees most often run from 20 percent to 30 percent, Morgan said.

“It’s hard enough to give up margins like that in average times, and it’s even harder during a pandemic," Morgan said.

Morgan and Johnson are among the organizers of the effort, which also includes Co-Op Dayton, the driving force behind the Gem City Market; Flyer Consulting, a student-run organization based at the University of Dayton that provides free business consulting to non-profit organizations; and 937 Delivers’ founding restaurants, including Lily’s Dayton, Butter Café, Dublin Pub, Franco’s Ristorante Italiano, Trolley Stop, Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Ghostlight Coffee/Fantasma Taco, The Pizza Bandit, the Oregon Express and Phebe’s Café.

The idea, Johnson said, is to launch 937 Delivers with a core of restaurants in the downtown Dayton, Oregon District and Brown Street areas, then expand slowly from that base, both geographically and in numbers of participating restaurants. The first meals could be delivered before the end of November, and the co-op’s drivers will also be able to deliver wine, beer and cocktails in addition to meals, Johnson said.

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The timing of the 937 Delivers launch could be pivotal for local restaurants. Gov. Mike DeWine said last week he is considering shutting down dine-in service in Ohio restaurants for a second time in an attempt to slow the recent spike of COVID-19 cases throughout Ohio. A decision could come as early as this week.

Restaurants that join 937 Delivers will pay a monthly subscription fee. Customers using the delivery service will pay a delivery fee that would go to the participating restaurants and the drivers, Morgan and Johnson said. Any profits earned by the co-op also would go to the drivers and restaurants.

The MVRA’s Morgan said the meal-delivery co-op also will give local restaurants more control and greater accountability over how their food is treated once it goes out the door, Morgan said.

“Now, if there’s an issue with a delivery from one of the third-party giants, there is little that the local restaurant can do about it,” Morgan said. “We want our local restaurants to be able to provide a delivery service they can be proud of.”

Beaver, Butter Café's owner, said that increased oversight of quality control is an important advantage of 937 Delivers.

“I want to know that when food leaves my restaurant, it will be fine when it reaches my customers' house,” Beaver said.

Lela Klein, executive director of Co-Op Dayton, said 937 Delivers will allow restaurants to come together to help each other survive the pandemic winter, while also keeping their workers employed and providing their customers with delicious food.

Duke Tobin, a UD student studying entrepreneurship, marketing, and communications who is part of Flyer Consulting, said, “Being able to play a role in starting 937 Delivers and helping so many local restaurants has been an incredible experience for all of us, and we are looking forward to seeing how the community comes together around this service.”

The co-op’s founders say they are working with other local businesses to help ensure a successful launch of 937 Delivers. “If a local business wants to help, there are sponsorship opportunities,” Johnson said.

For more information about 937 Delivers, email 937delivers@gmail.com. A 937delivers.com web page is expected to go live shortly, and a 937 Delivers Facebook page was created Monday.

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