Special delivery: Valet Gourmet takes Knoxville

Valet Gourmet owner Kenan Hopkins takes his dog Mayday for a stroll. Photo by Jared Kay
Valet Gourmet owner Kenan Hopkins takes his dog Mayday for a stroll. Photo by Jared Kay

Valet Gourmet, an Asheville-­based multi-­restaurant delivery service, expanded its operations into Knoxville, Tenn., as of Monday, Aug. 4, by acquiring a similar delivery business called 622­-EATS. Founder Kenan Hopkins closed the deal with 622-­EATS and started fulfilling orders in Knoxville the very same day.

“We’re only one week in, but the response has just been phenomenal,” announces Hopkins. He says acquiring 622-­EATS was a fortuitous opportunity that emerged when he heard an industry friend was selling the company. “Honestly these businesses don’t come up for sale that often, and to have one so close come up for sale was kind of a no-­brainer for us. So I’m glad we were able to make it happen.”

Steady growth over five years and continual improvements in the number and quality of restaurants within 622-EATS’ delivery network made the company an attractive prospect for acquisition, according to Hopkins. The Valet Gourmet owner also cited “great delivery drivers and a fantastic office staff” as attributes of the acquired business.

“We’re going to have so many more features for our customers – more than they’ve ever seen before,” says Hopkins of planned improvements to Valet Gourmet’s customer interface. During the acquisition process, Valet Gourmet purchased a software system that should improve customers’ purchase experiences – both in Asheville and Knoxville. Feature upgrades will include streamlined account management, the ability to split a bill into multiple forms of payment (Dutch date delivered, anyone?) and eventually a frequent buyer program, which Hopkins admits customers have been requesting for years. “We know we’re a premium service. We need to have premium reward options,” he agrees.

Another top priority for Hopkins is to integrate Valet Gourmet into the Knoxville community, just as he has done with his Asheville office. “I hope to get involved in some capacity in Knoxville, whether it be at an animal welfare organization or something else that’s complementary to what we do.”

Hopkins reports that the same-­day goods delivery industry is booming, and he hopes to see the same “tremendous growth” in Knoxville that his operation has experienced in Asheville. The North Carolina native started Valet Gourmet in 2003 by teaming up with 13 restaurants, four drivers and one office manager. Over a decade later, the operation (including the new Knoxville branch) involves more than 100 restaurants, at least 60 delivery drivers and about a dozen office employees – and those numbers continue to grow as the company hires employees in Asheville to handle incoming orders from Knoxville.

But hungry Ashevillians need not worry that Valet Gourmet’s expansion will deteriorate the quality of service offered in the company’s hometown. Hopkins promises, “As far as resources go, our number one goal is to not take anything away from Asheville, so we’re only going to add to our Asheville operation. We understand that that’s where we started. We love Asheville – couldn’t love it any more.”

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