Flavor Cycle: restaurant food delivered to your door
"Dependable, delicious delivery" is the tagline for Flavor Cycle, which brings food from various Milwaukee restaurants via bike straight to your door.
The bike delivery food service has been up and running for the past three weeks.
"Things are totally slow," says co-owner Peter DiAntoni.
DiAntoni and co-owner Kevin Sparrow think it will take at least a year for word to really get out about bike delivery options. In the meantime, they continue to add restaurants.
Flavor Cycle currently delivers from six restaurants in Riverwest, the lower East Side and Downtown, and delivery from two new restaurants begins this week with the addition of the Riverwest Co-op Cafe and Deli and Stonefly. Another Riverwest restaurant, Centro, will offer bike delivery soon, too.
"We'll have a lock on Center Street," says DiAntoni.
Deliveries are made from the participating restaurants by placing an order with them and asking for bike delivery. There is usually no charge to the customer for delivery. The restaurant takes care of everything else.
Clicking on each restaurant's link at Flavor Cycle's website brings up the phone number to the restaurant to place orders, as well as links to restaurant menus and Facebook pages. A detailed map of each restaurant's delivery area is also available by following its "delivery zone map" link.
Each restaurant has its own delivery area.
Deliveries outside these areas have a $3 fee imposed, but DiAntoni says these things are negotiable. In other words, no one is interested in assessing an extra charge for going another block off the area demarcated on the map.
Flavor Cycle has done runs to Lincoln Avenue from Bel Air Cantina, 1935 N. Water St., which is way outside its delivery area and the farthest delivery so far.
"We got it there and it was still hot," DiAntoni says.
Plans are developing to add Bay View and Walker's Point restaurants and delivery areas. The Loaded Slate, 1137 N. Old World 3rd St., is currently the southernmost restaurant working with the delivery service.
Many of the delivery riders work or have worked as bike messengers, including DiAntoni who used to deliver Potbelly sandwiches out of the Downtown restaurant when he was working for Breakaway Bicycle Courier. Sparrow still works part-time at Breakaway.
Already prepared for riding in any weather, the delivery riders have a wide array of equipment to carry the food, from pizza-box-sized racks mounted to the front of bikes to large water- and wind-proof backpacks.
Flavor Cycle also has a Bullitt cargo bike which is currently in the shop getting custom paint. Built in Copenhagen, Denmark, Bullitt riders are on what looks somewhat like a traditional bike, in back of a cargo area they essentially push. Flavor Cycle will be able to deliver larger catering jobs once the bike is done.
Bike delivery is an economical and environmentally-sound idea whose time, it seems, has come. Similar services are slowly getting started nation-wide; one recently launched in Detroit called Hot Spokes.
No one understands these trends perhaps as much as DiAntoni and Sparrow, who have been covering bike messengers and bike culture for five years in their publication, COG Magazine.
In fact, they modeled Flavor Cycle on a group of out-of-work bike messengers in San Francisco they recently did a story on for COG.
The San Fran riders all lived in the Mission district and three years ago, when times were even more lean for them, they started observing how many of their neighborhood restaurants and bodegas they enjoyed had carry-out but no delivery.
DiAntoni says the group of California riders approached these businesses with their idea of bicycle delivery and are now the biggest employer of cyclists in San Francisco.
DiAntoni and Sparrow believed this model could work in Milwaukee and brought it home to form Flavor Cycle.
COG magazine is basically doing business as Flavor Cycle; DiAntoni, the magazine's editor, says they're a group of bicyclists "literally practicing what we preach," which is living the bicycle life.
COG magazine was started in fall 2007 and has an international status among bicyclists; its 12th issue comes out soon.
Flavor Cycle currently has 10 male and female riders.
"We're totally over-staffed. But everyone who's doing it believes in it. If it works out, this will be the ultimate part-time job," says DiAntoni.
The riders sign up for shifts using Google calendar.
All the riders are independent contractors, providing their phone numbers to a Google voice program that distributes the calls after participating restaurants call the main contact number for bike delivery. There are three riders working each shift.
DiAntoni says the Flavor Cycle riders are like "virtual servers" from the restaurants. They work for a traditional tip split like in-restaurant servers do, where tips in the cup are divided at shift's end.
Riders earn shift pay, which is splitting the service fee Flavor Cycle charges to participating restaurants 60 / 40 (in the riders' favor).
Restaurants that sign on pay a daily service fee for bike delivery, which starts at 10 percent for delivery purchases. (There is no fee if there are no deliveries.) For example, the fee charged to restaurants for all orders up to $50 would be $5 (10 percent) regardless of whether one order of sandwiches for $12 was delivered or four orders of sandwiches (for $48) were delivered.
Restaurants are charged $10 for daily orders between $50 and $100 and so on, staying at 10 percent according to this scale until daily orders reach $250, when the fee increases slightly.
This service is commonplace in NYC. Interestingly, the deliverymen there are all immigrants working for a pittance and risking their lives on a daily basis. It's definitely not considered a "hip" job there!
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