The idea of the personal courier is well-entrenched in our mental image of the very wealthy. Like Anne Hathaway’s character in “The Devil Wears Prada,” CEOs and celebrities deploy them to pick up anything and everything, from dry-cleaning to yet-to-be-published “Harry Potter” manuscripts.
But today, in our mobile app driven lives, couriers and the companies that manage them are making a foray into the lives of us more financially typical folk. The upshot? Food — or anything that one person can conceivably transport — straight to your doorstep.
“We are democratizing the personal assistant,” said Robert Hernandez, founder and CEO of Getly, formerly Dlyver.me, one such service founded here in San Antonio.
Platforms of all sorts are looking to cash into this new way of moving local goods across the U.S. In San Antonio, a few notables are making themselves known. Getly is a new startup founded by Robert and Christopher Hernandez, two natives of south San Antonio. On the other end of the spectrum is Postmates, a national service based in San Francisco, that recently established itself in San Antonio as part of a major push across the continental United States. Favor lies in between, a Texas-based service beginning to reach beyond the Lone Star State’s borders.
“I began to see a real chance for urban, local delivery, and an ability, with a tech-based platform, to make it happen,” Hernandez said.
Favor was born out of one of its founders’ parents’ basement, where with the help of “Coding for Dummies” and a startup training program in California, co-founder Zac Maurais and his partners set out to become “Lyft for food.”
Postmates, meanwhile, had its start abroad. Bastian Lehmann, one of the company’s founders, tried to find a courier service to transport a few things back home during a move across Europe. However, what he found was an utter lack of reasonably priced companies. Into that market gap, Postmates was born. This kind of tech-based business that essentially connects freelance individuals to perform various services – including platforms like Lyft, Uber, and AirBnb – make up what is known as the sharing economy.
Currently, ready-to-eat food makes up the bulk of the goods all three services transport. Getly and Postmates offer menus and lists of San Antonio restaurants on their websites. Postmates boasts national chain Chipotle, with which it recently announced a partnership (rejoice, burrito fans). Postmates also has a mobile app, and Getly promises its own soon, while Favor only offers its services via app.
April Conyers, director of communications at Postmates, attributes the new-fangled rise of third-party delivery services to the current tech culture.
“Everyone’s walking around with a GPS in their pockets,” Conyers said. “The adage is: ‘there’s an app for that.’ People expect a mobile app solution to their daily problems, and we aim to answer part of that expectation.”
Hernandez draws attention to specific changes and needs in San Antonio. “With developments in and around the Pearl, these new apartment complexes and living areas close to downtown, there’s a real need for a cheap method of moving goods locally,” Hernandez said.
Eating with the help of all three companies is largely similar. Either on your computer or your phone, you input your current location, select the restaurant and the food you want, or type up your items in the custom order boxes. It came in handy when, in Postmates’ case, Panchito’s sopaipillas were not listed online. Disaster averted. Favor uses the custom order for all of its orders – don’t forget your sides.
From there, the process takes on a more human edge. Postmates has a call center in San Francisco that handles directly relaying your orders to the restaurant, while Getly’s and Favor’s runners order on their end. Couriers of all three platforms were helpful, contacting me by phone call or text message to clarify orders. Favor boasted the quickest delivery, but in no case was I left with cold food.
Of course, getting your favorite food delivered comes with a price. In Getly’s case, anything purchased and delivered within the bounds of downtown and I-410 comes with a flat $4.99 delivery fee, plus a 9% service fee. Go farther out, however, and your price may increase. For Postmates and Favor, pricing is, in most cases, exactly the same. For now, Favor only delivers in the north-central part of San Antonio, with plans to expand.
Are those prices worth the undeniable convenience? Well, that’s for you to decide.
It depends also, of course, on need. Favor, Getly and Postmates aim to be a solution for any problem you have that can be solved via delivery.
“Everybody gets the concept of getting food to-go, so that’s where we start. But we’re much more than that,” Maurais, of Favor, said.
Hernandez describes a scenario in which you’re about to give a presentation, but your laptop is about to die. “We’ll bring you a charger,” Hernandez said.
Conyers, admittedly a power-user of Postmates before joining the company, has personally used the service to do things like move supplies from office to office. “Basically, anything that one person can reasonably transport, we can deliver,” she said. In this way, today’s tech couriers are more in-line with that personal-assistant image.
Postmates’ favorite special delivery in the company’s history? “A bottle of champagne and a pregnancy test,” Conyers said.
The entrance of companies like Favor, Getly, and Postmates into San Antonio comes at an interesting time, considering the city council’s recent approval of new city rideshare regulations that lead to both Lyft and Uber ceasing operations in City limits. Conyers confirmed that there is notable overlap in other cities between contracted drivers who deliver for Postmates and drive for Uber.
“In San Antonio, we hope to be a good alternative for people who want to do this kind of work,” Conyers said.
“Favor and businesses like it are changing how people work and live,” Maurais said. “And it’s change that’s taking root everywhere.”
Hernandez expressed a worry about advancing his business in a city proving itself, in his view, as unprogressive in regard to the transportation industry. “We’ll be treading lightly,” said Hernandez. “We’re looking to expand our delivery base to include items like alcohol and tobacco. As we do, we’ll be working with and against legislature.”
Perhaps San Antonio’s desire for its favorite dishes to appear in its living room will thaw the city’s transportation stalemate. In any case, your food comas just got a whole lot easier.
*Featured/top image: A Postmates driver poses for a photo with bags of deliveries in tow. Photo courtesy of Postmates.