“It’s amazing what determination and desperation will do for you,” says Jennie Townsend, owner of Asheville-based food delivery service Kickback AVL, which she worked on creating for a year before kicking it off in December 2018. While the two traits are key to many an entrepreneurial vision on the rocky road to profitability, Townsend has a few more in her portfolio that have helped build her client list and customer base.
“As one of the early adopters of the local food movement here in Asheville, supporting local business is key to us,” says Kevin Barnes, who has owned and operated Ultimate Ice Cream with wife Lucia for 15 years. “The big companies come in, do unscrupulous things, and they’re not accountable. Jennie is local, we know her and what she does for our community.”
When a Chicago pizza truck owner posted his March Grubhub statement on Facebook, it went viral, spurring national news coverage from outlets including Eater and the Los Angeles Times on the hefty fees large corporate delivery companies charge for their services. The food truck owner’s billing showed that out of $1,042.63 in orders, he pocketed just $376.54. “I was probably tagged a thousand times on that story,” says Townsend with a laugh.
She does things differently, in part because she has been working in restaurants since she was 14 and spent 20 years as a pastry chef, including four at Sunny Point Café. “I try to be very transparent with our fees and how they work. Our service fee is 25% and up to the restaurant to decide how to do that. They can add that to their price on our menu — which means a $10 hamburger would be $12.50 — pay it all themselves or split it.”
A service fee of 6% helps cover the cost of processing credit cards (and, pre-COVID, Kickback provided compostable and biodegradable cutlery); the base delivery fee is $4.99 for five miles (mileage is added above that), with 70% going to the driver and 30% to a local nonprofit (Asheville Cat Weirdos in 2019, BeLoved Asheville for 2020).
When N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper closed restaurant dining rooms in mid-March, the Kickback website became “a madhouse. We had a lot of new restaurants sign up and so many new customers for delivery,” she says. “The other new thing we’re seeing is how early people are eating now. Instead of 6:30 and 7, it’s between 4 and 5. All but two of our restaurants are closed by 8. We’re done earlier but working a lot harder when we’re rolling.”
For more on Kickback AVL, visit avl.mx/762.