By Melinda Lavine, Duluth News Tribune
You may have seen the orange Prius. “Everyone thinks we have more than one vehicle,” said Josie Scheiterlein of the Food Dudes Delivery car. Some weeks, she and her husband clock 500 to 1,000 miles delivering food for restaurants that don’t have in-house drivers; that’s the Food Dudes’ purpose. And while there is only one car with the logo in Duluth, “It definitely does its job,” she said.
Scheiterlein has been heading the company’s Duluth location for more than a year. She and her almost 25 drivers deliver for Black Woods, India Palace, Canal Park Brewery, Burrito Union, and Old Chicago, among many others.
How it works: Type in your address at fooddudesdelivery.com. A list of restaurants pops up, and the estimated delivery times and a delivery fee may show up for each. The latter is calculated by distance.
“If it’s over 8 miles, that’ll be the $6.99 delivery,” Scheiterlein said. For most Duluth addresses, it’s $4.99.
Pick a restaurant, pick your food — there’s an order minimum of $15 or more — then select “ASAP” or a future delivery date. (For larger orders, Scheiterlein recommended making it 24-48 hours beforehand.)
Pick the gratuity, submit the order and the breakdown of fees is emailed. Drivers have 15-18 minutes to arrive at the restaurant after they accept an order, and clients and Scheiterlein can track an order’s status remotely.
During a recent lunch rush, Scheiterlein gripped her smartphone as she walked to the trunk of the Food Dudes Delivery car. “It’s a two-bagger,” she said of the order while grabbing another insulated tote.
Inside Tavern on the Hill, host Abbey DeGouey checked items on a tablet — the restaurant’s link to Food Dudes deliveries. Scheiterlein checked incoming activity on her phone, as DeGouey bagged stacks of meals headed to Cirrus Aircraft.
“This is my primary income,” said Food Dudes driver Gordon Maukstad, of Superior. He stopped into Tavern to take the second big order to Monaco Air Duluth. Maukstad is one of the four full-time drivers, and he’s thankful for the flexibility in his schedule.
When pressed, Scheiterlein said a hot Tavern delivery item is their Thai Chicken Tender Melt, though, other than an item count, she mostly avoids food specifics.
“It makes me hungry,” she said, adding that the smells from Cloud 9 and Hanabi are “intriguing.”
She has noticed that Hanabi and Tavern do chalk up a lot of orders. DeGouey sees at least five deliveries when working Tavern’s to-go counter.
“It’s fairly easy,” Hanabi manager Joe Foster said of teaming up with the delivery service.
The Japanese restaurant partnered with Food Dudes when the service started in Duluth three years ago. “We had fears it might cannibalize some of our business,” he said. But that didn’t happen.
Hanabi keeps track of customer phone numbers, and through that, they can tell they’ve added to their client base. “We’ve definitely seen an uptick in business.”
Owner Louis Hanson said OMC Smokehouse has partnered with Food Dudes for a little more than six months. “It’s like having a delivery driver on call all the time,” he said. “I couldn’t provide a delivery service for what they do for me.”
While OMC is in its first year, Hanson said he can’t yet tell if it’s aided business, but during Friday’s first snowfall of the season, OMC saw a lot of delivery orders, he said.
As far as harrowing or humorous stories, one driver had a car stolen when they left it running during a delivery, Scheiterlein said. Other than that, “I’ve had a ton of people order food and fall asleep,” she said, adding they’re mostly those with overnight or odd shifts.
There’s also a fair share of touching stories.
“We’re delivering to people who have families in the ICU. We’re delivering to people, mothers in the birthing unit who just had a baby.”
For the future, Scheiterlein aims to continue to expand Duluth area partnerships. Newer additions have been The Crooked Pint, Dave’s Pizza in Hermantown and Lark O’ the Lake. There are more restaurants to come that Scheiterlein didn’t disclose. “You’ll have to check my Facebook page,” she said with a smile.
Food Dudes Delivery started in fall 2008 in St. Cloud. It branched out to Duluth in 2014. There are now 17 locations across seven states, said Food Dudes office manager Cody Neuman, of St. Cloud.
What’s in a name: Landing on the name came about by searching online for available domains, Neuman said. Also sitting around and brainstorming. He and founder David Carlson got lucky with Food Dudes Delivery, he said. And: “It’s catchy.”
Fee breakdown: Twenty percent of the delivery fee goes to the central Food Dudes Delivery office in St. Cloud, the rest goes to the driver, as does 100 percent of the gratuity, said Duluth site manager Josie Scheiterlein. Food Dudes pays restaurants for the food at a discounted rate, and the rest goes to paying site managers, web development, advertising, etc.