Food delivery is changing in Iowa City.
The most recent restaurant to launch an Iowa City delivery service is Panera Bread in the Old Capital Mall, which opened earlier this year. According to Panera Bread’s delivery and catering operations manager, Kira L’Heureux, this is also the first Iowa location using delivery drivers without cars exclusively .
“The main reason is parking,” L’Heureux explained. “There’s probably a handful (of Panera locations) that have bikes in the country, but I think it will work very well in this area.”
A downtown Des Moines location attempted something similar a few years ago, using partial walking/biking delivery. However, those delivery methods were discontinued when driving ended up being more effective.
“Essentially, in Des Moines, we did discover that the demand for delivery via bicycle wasn’t as high as we believed it was,” said Emily Deahr, Panera’s marketing administrator for Iowa franchises. “We decided that based on the location of this new café, having it downtown so close to the University of Iowa campus, it would work to have that delivery area be a little bit smaller (and without cars).”
Meanwhile, the Village Inn chain began taking steps to introduce a breakfast delivery service via a “limited number of a one-of-a-kind smart alarm clocks—with a Village Inn breakfast order button.”
“When the Alexa Skill is ready users can create a profile at VillageInn.com that they can link to their Skill,” the release reads. “Once the Alexa Skill is setup all users have to do is say: ‘Alexa, tell Village Inn I want my breakfast.'”
While there is not a set date for a broad release of the product/app-service through Village Inn, the Old Capitol Mall’s Panera location began its new delivery method on Wednesday, Aug. 14, with just shy of 10 new employees specifically hired for walking and biking deliveries.
As all deliveries are made on foot or by bicycle — the restaurant has two bikes on hand available to employees, though many use their own — there is a much smaller delivery radius than most restaurants.
“It’s an eight-minute range,” said L’Heureux. “It’s not a certain number of miles, they take into account stop signs, stop lights, or anywhere we’re not alowed to bike. But an eight- to nine-minute bike ride is kind of the outside (of our range).”
Panera representatives believe the number of businesses and residences that can be delivered to via bike and feet is sufficient to support the practice.
On a wider scale, Panera has signed a contract with UberEats, GrubHub and DoorDash so that despite maintaining their own delivery staff and website, the restaurant will gain increased visibility via those apps. The service is scheduled to start on Aug. 29.
Neither of these developments has local delivery service CHOMP particularly concerned. Both Panera and Village Inn are chain restaurants which CHOMP has less of a focus on.
“Occasionally we do attempt to reach chain stores in the area,” said Adam Weeks, CHOMP’s co-founder and managing LLC member, “but typically what we find is we’re the solution for the locally owned and operated Iowa restaurants.”