Nosh Haven staff and partners in a recent meeting. From left, Joe Torchia, Nosh Haven driver operations manager; Daniel Willis, Nosh Haven; Ryan Taylor, The Coffee Pedaler; Alex Foulkes, Shoreline Menus-Nosh Haven; Lauren Ashe, Nosh Haven; Stephen Yaeger, Nosh Haven, Carmela Buono, Ward 9.
Nosh Haven / Contributed photo
NEW HAVEN — The new food delivery service in town, Nosh Haven, isn’t trying to be as big as DoorDash, Uber Eats or GrubHub; it’s all about being small, locally owned, easy to reach and fair to the people it serves, both customers and the restaurants it delivers for.
That’s in part because it’s owned by some of those same restaurants.
But with food delivery a big thing in the midst of a pandemic, it’s growing fast.
“They’ve been great! We’re really happy!” said Carmela Buono, co-owner of Ward 9, the re-branded restaurant and bar in the space that used to be J.P. Dempsey’s at 974 State St. She uses Nosh Haven’s delivery service — and also has bought in as an investor “partner,” one of seven partners among the establishments it serves.
“The fact that they’re local” and “very personable” both are pluses, Buono said. “Anytime I’ve had questions I can get them on the phone. Our (order) tablet went down last week and I called up. Daniel from Nosh Haven came down and replaced it.
“I love the idea — and we love to support local,” said Buono, who owns Ward 9 with her husband, Dennis Beaulieu. “We order our beer from East Rock Brewery. We get our desserts from Marjolaine Bakery. Anytime we can support another local business, we do.”
A lot changed for Connecticut restaurant owners when the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down indoor dining in March 2020, with many establishments finding themselves suddenly much more reliant on delivery and takeout business.
Many also discovered they were paying a high percentage of their take to established delivery services, and that those companies didn’t always respond promptly enough when something went wrong, some owners said.
Restaurants have since reopened, but many people still aren’t comfortable eating in. Folks looking to support local restaurants but who are not yet willing to eat indoors have in some cases been surprised to discover how big a bite the delivery services take.
Coincidentally, in early 2019, restaurant owner Alex Foulkes of Penny Lane Pub in Old Saybrook had started a small delivery source called Shoreline Menus. He worked with people to develop software and, after the pandemic hit, it quickly grew.
“It was born sort of out of frustrations and lack of options at the time,” said Foulkes, who founded Shoreline Menus, which has now spawned two offshoots: Nosh Haven in and around New Haven and Hartford Menus in Greater Hartford.
Foulkes now is a part-owner of all three services in addition to owning Penny Lane Pub. “The big national delivery companies were the only options available to us,” he said, and “we looked around and couldn’t find any local options.”
Before Shoreline Menus, “we had one place in Old Saybrook that delivered — and it was a pizza place that only delivered to Old Saybrook,” Foulkes said.
The biggest issue when Nosh Haven, Shoreline Menus or Hartford Menus tries to win a new client is that so many restaurants “have been burned so many times” by larger delivery services, he said. “We have to get over that barrier. … There’s a lot of frustrations in the industry right now and it’s seen as a necessary evil, and we have to get over that.”
It’s not about competing with the big guys, he said.
“If we were going to try to compete with the big national delivery services … their technology is better, their marketing is better,” Foulkes said. “But what we have is, we have people who invest time and trust into us.”
In addition, “Our customers are very generous because they know it’s a local service. … Drivers know if they get a smaller order, we’ll take care of them on the bigger orders.”
Nosh Haven began operating just a few months ago, with seven New Haven establishments on board as investor “partners” and a total of 33 establishments currently participating in the delivery program, said Dylan Lyons, who does marketing for Eatsy, which serves all three regional delivery services.
Many also use other services. Several local restaurant owners said they put Nosh Haven’s link on their websites but also accept orders through Uber Eats, GrubHub, DoorDash or other services.
“It kind of grew very organically out of the community,” said Lyons, who lives in the city’s East Rock section.
Shoreline Menus “is much more established,” and the three services are associated only in that they share the same software and model, Lyons said.
What they all have going for them is that when a customer orders through Nosh Haven, Shoreline Menus or Hartford Menus, the place they’re ordering from pays about 20 percent of the charge to the service, versus about 30 percent or more to the nationals, said Lyons and several restaurant and store owners.
“When you have that name recognition and the ease with which” people can log in and have food delivered, “it’s hard to compete,” Lyons said.
What the locals have going for them, however, is that “people want to know that, especially during COVID,” their money is going to support a struggling local business, he said.
Right now, Nosh Haven has just two full-time employees: Steven “Fin” Yaeger, who is “the market guy,” and Daniel Willis, who is “the restaurant management guy” — but if anyone has a problem, they usually can get one or the other or Foulkes on the phone with one call, Lyons said.
Nosh Haven’s investor partners, all located in New Haven, include The Coffee Pedaler, P&M Orange Street Market, Tikkaway Fresh Indian Grill, Ward 9, Enoteca Cassanova, Caffe Bravo and House of Naan, Lyons said.
Ryan Taylor, owner of The Coffee Pedaler, 605 East St., said that as a coffee shop, he doesn’t even have a great need for delivery, but “I kind of jumped on board with being a partner with Nosh Haven. … I invested with the whole idea and the whole model behind it.
“I was just really interested in it because it was a grassroots kind of thing,” Taylor said. “They’re keeping all the drivers within an 18-minute radius. It takes care of New Haven, then a little bit of East Haven, North Haven, West Haven” and Branford.
“That keeps the food fresher for deliveries,” he said. “It also creates personalized experiences with drivers who get to know people as a regular” and there are “less fees to the customers, less fees to the businesses.”
Plus, “communication is really good, especially from end consumer to restaurant,” Taylor said.
Gopi Nair, owner of Tikaway Fresh Indian Grill, 135 Orange St., said that when Yaeger approached him, “I could see the need … and the intent behind it. … It was a no-brainer. Someone had to do this,” Nair said.
“I’m all about local. I’ve been in New Haven since 2013,” Nair said. “The whole idea is to make it local.”
Nair, also a partner, has no question that the service will succeed.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “I said yes to it. … I said, ‘listen, I’m all in.’”
Tikkaway, like many restaurants, wasn’t delivering before COVID. Then he began using GrubHub, DoorDash and Uber Eats, in addition to the local Snack Pass. He still uses the others — “they are the big daddies … and customers are actually used to them” — but Nosh Haven is the default link on his website.
“Nosh Haven’s drivers are personable, they’re local, they have the incentive to be nice” and “they’re trained to be pleasant,” Nair said.
Ohioma Odihirin is just getting started with his new Afro-Tina Southern-Latina fusion cuisine out of the Black Corner store at 275 Edgewood Ave. since early January.
But “I’ve seen a big difference already” since going with Nosh Haven, he said. “It’s nice seeing the person. … If I have any questions or anything, it’s just one phone call away. Plus the price is better. … And I like the fact that it’s local.”
He also is on DoorDash and Uber Eats, which provide people another way to find him, he said.
Brian Virtue, owner of Christopher Martins at 860 State St., also uses GrubHub and something called Zuppler, but “I’m hoping that more people will go through the local guy, Nosh Haven.”
While Virtue is not a partner, the link on the restaurant’s home page takes people to Nosh Haven, he said.
Nosh Haven so far “has been great,” he said. “I had one little glitch. I called them up they were there within about 10 minutes. … Initially, it was all about the local side, but now that I like them, it’s more because they take care of business.”
A few of Nosh Haven’s customers are not actually restaurants.
Pino Ciccone, owner of the P&M Orange Street Market, 721 Orange St., uses it to deliver groceries and gourmet treats — and bought in as a partner.
“I invested in the company. I believe in what they’re doing,” Ciccone said. “I also do accept from UberEats and GrubHub, as well. But the fees are astronomical … Most of the time, we’re not making money. We’re doing it because it’s keeping my employees busy and we’re moving product.”
He said he’s been involved with Nosh Haven “from day one. Once they begin to make money, I make money.”
“Just recently, about a month ago, I put the Nosh Haven logo on my website,” Ciccone said. “What I’m trying to do is filter all my ordering to NoshHaven. … I do believe in the company so I do feel that it will grow.”
Here’s a complete list of restaurants currently using Nosh Haven:
New Haven: The Coffee Pedaler, Chap’s Grill, Doner Kebab, P&M Orange Street Market, House of Naan, Caffe Bravo, Crafted By Hand, J&B Deli, The Neighborhood Cafe, Tikkaway Fresh Indian Grill, Ward 9, Afro-Tina, Pitaziki, Toka, Christopher Martins, Menya Gumi, Michelina’s Apizza & Ristorante, Enoteca Cassanova, Jordan’s Hot Dog’s & Mac, Firehouse 12, Munchies, Afro-Tina.
Branford: Hornet’s Nest Deli, La Luna, Allegra’s Cafe, Shoreline Cafe, Genaro’s, Mosaico, Pompeo’s Restaurant, P&M Fine Foods, Home Restaurant.
East Haven: Tolli’s Apizza.
West Haven: ReBar.