Delivery apps vie for a slice of Tampa, Orlando markets | Crain's Tampa Bay

Delivery apps vie for a slice of Tampa, Orlando markets

David Osterweil, founder Fitlife Foods, says the Tampa company's customer service and unique menu stand out compared to national players entering the Florida market. | Photo courtesy of Fitlife Foods

With Tampa Bay and neighboring Orlando basking in good vibes from months of upbeat economic news, it’s no wonder some major players in online delivery are making a beeline for the Sunshine State.

Grocery-delivery app Instacart just launched in Daytona Beach and Palm Bay this month. McDonald’s tested its delivery service through UberEats in Miami, Orlando and Tampa last year before launching in dozens of other markets. And restaurant delivery startup Postmates expanded service to major cities in Florida in recent months.

“There are so many companies out there doing delivery,” said David Osterweil, founder of Tampa Bay-based Fitlife Foods. “Everybody has access to everything at a moment’s notice nowadays.”

Value over volume

Fitlife Foods launched in 2011, branding itself as a healthy option for consumers too busy to prepare their own meals. It’s expanded to 14 locations in Florida: nine in the Tampa area, one in Bradenton, two in the Orlando region, and two in South Florida.

In late 2016, Fitlife Foods began home delivery of meals from its Tampa-area locations. Customers order online and select a package of 8-12 meals or 20-24 meals.

While homegrown Fitlife is a bit player compared to titans like McDonald’s, Osterweil says he’s confident the company's laser-focused customer service, as well as its 60-item menu, will stand out.

“We really wanted to establish a relationship with our customers first and have that one-to-one relationship built so that we stand for something instead of just delivering a product,” Osterweil said. “One of the things we hear about is a lot of delivery companies that force too much product on the customers, so you’re not really getting the best value as a customer from that standpoint.”

Fitlife Foods, for instance, offers customers a chance to meet with a wellness coach and discuss meal plans. It also has a recycling rewards program to encourage customers to bring in their used plastic containers that are then recycled into hard permanent plastic and are not reused as eating vessels. “You waste nothing and you get a $10 credit in our stores after 20 containers,” he said.

As a seven-time marathon competitor, Osterweil has long been interested in nutrition and fitness but, like many conscientious diners found it difficult to make the time to cook.

“I’d see these great recipes and think, ‘Who has time for this?’” he said.

Many of his company's delivery customers stock up on prepared healthy meals for the week and have their food delivered on Mondays or Thursday in cooler bags with ice packs, according to Fitlife’s website.

While nutrition is the top priority of customers, some of the most popular dishes are chicken enchiladas and barbecue mac and cheese, Osterweil says.

The customers ordering tend to be adult children sending meals to their senior parents, working professionals and people who just want to eat healthier, Osterweil says. “It’s just about offering the customer the flexibility of having an option.”

The mobile model is growing, with some of that growth driven by brick-and-mortar franchises expanding delivery offerings and increasing the number of services they provide outside physical locations, according to Joel Libava, known by the trademarked name The Franchise King.

“People want convenience,” Libava said. “They want it now. They want it delivered. They don’t want to necessarily leave their house. So I think the trend is going to continue.”

More than just food

The lure of the immediate even extends to services like massages, which require time, scheduling and vetting.

One such service is Zeel, which sends licensed massage therapists to customers’ homes. Based in New York, Zeel began offering its massage services in 2012 before expanding to more than 60 cities with more than 9,000 massage therapists, says Cynthia Irons, chief marketing officer. Zeel launched in Miami in August 2014, then Tampa in October 2015 and Orlando in May 2016.

“The idea is that people are so busy. You can’t predict your schedule and you want a massage when you want one,” Irons said. "With Zeel, we’re always available and always here for you.”

Customers can choose from six types of massages that can help alleviate pain, prevent injuries or promote relaxation, Irons says.

When Zeel therapists toting a portable table arrive at a customer’s home, they can ask additional questions to customize the session.

Because Zeel doesn’t have physical locations, the massage therapists earn about 70 to 75 percent from each massage and customers aren’t obligated to include a tip because it’s already included in the cost of the massage, according to Irons.

“It’s really important for on-demand companies to develop trust and safety measures,” Irons said.

Zeel performs safety checks on both the therapists and consumers by vetting therapists and verifying a customer’s identification before the first massage is booked. Once a massage is booked, customers can see the therapist’s name and photo, so they know who to expect at their door.

Massages can be scheduled for as early as 8 a.m. and as late as 10:30 p.m. According to their website, Zeel massage therapists use a check-in system to verify that they’ve safely completed their appointments.

“Just the idea that the spa could be brought to you is one of the challenges that we faced early on,” Irons said.

Chores and tasks

An early pioneer in the peer-to-peer economy – San Francisco-based TaskRabbit – recently expanded to Orlando and Tampa Bay and expects to be in 40 cities by June, said CEO Stacy Brown-Philpot.

San Francisco-based TaskRabbit offers customers help with chores around the house like cleaning, home repairs, gardening and more. TaskRabbit workers, called taskers, earn an average $35 hourly rate, according to Brown-Philpot.

Customers turn to TaskRabbit for "all those little things that you just don’t have a lot of time to do,” Brown-Philpot said.

May 23, 2017 - 2:10pm