Since formally launching in December 2020, Omaha LoCo has delivered more than 25,000 meals to local residents, while keeping an extra $100,000-plus in local restaurants’ registers and fairly compensating delivery drivers, on top of the $500,000 raised with the Douglas County Meal Program that helped provide meals with dignity to over 40,000 individuals. It’s making a small, but important dent in the fight to protect local food culture and the tens of millions national 3rd party delivery services take out of our community.
Today, with 41 local restaurant co-operative members and another 25 restaurants on the platform, LoCo is poised to launch into its future even as it’s tackling adversity.
Since the fall, LoCo has launched a new joint venture, bringing the marketplace and delivery technology functions in-house with its new technology partner Dine.direct. Between June 8-15, LoCo plans to launch its new application, which boasts several exciting new features:
- The ability to call in pick-up orders;
- Streamlined reporting for restaurants;
- In-app messaging;
- The ability to implement and track marketing campaigns;
- Delivery integration with other third-party delivery services – another way Omaha LoCo can help restaurants cut their commissions to DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and others by more than half while keeping LoCo drivers busy; and
- Services to help restaurants better manage overall delivery and takeout into their business operations.
The transition will require users to do a search in their Apple App or Google Play store and to re-enter their information. Just search “Eat LoCo” at either platform, and the app will be available for download.
“We got so far with the previous platform,” said LoCo General Manager and Co-Founder Clay Seaman. “We knew what we needed and the technology team at Dine Direct has been beyond responsive and foresightful in assisting our development. We’re really excited to be on the cutting edge of technology for a local delivery service.”
Times have been unprecedented for the restaurant industry, as seen by recent closures, said Seaman, noting the local dining scene has been facing severe headwinds since pandemic restrictions have been lifted, navigating shifting supply chains and costs, while trying to meet returning demand with a shrunken and less experienced workforce.
This has forced many restaurants to turn off delivery during peak times, meaning delivery volumes today are down from what they were last summer.
“We’ve seen it everywhere, across almost every kind of restaurant,” said Justin Halbert, owner of Herbe Sainte, a restaurant in Aksarben Village. “It’s all we can do to recapture demand and keep a good team, while staying afloat when your costs rise at every turn.”
LoCo’s founding board was launched by Brian O’Malley, board president and executive director of Metropolitan Community College’s Culinary Institute, Seaman, board secretary and longtime delivery professional, and John Heaston, board treasurer and founder/publisher at The Reader. O’Malley and Heaston have been battling and beating cancer over the past year.
Seaman will be working through June 15 to get the app launch over the finish line and to help prepare a new executive committee of restaurant owners to more directly oversee operations. He also has been initiating the process for the co-operative to have its first members meeting and to elect its first board.
Nominees to the executive committee in addition to Halbert include: Anne Cavanaugh (Amsterdam Falafel); Gladys Harrison (Big Mama’s Kitchen); Chaz Kline (Rathskellers Bier Haus); and Dee Gaule (Cruiser’s). LoCo Co-operative principals Jon Sewell (Iowa City) and Kyle Brown (Orlando) will be assisting.
Working with the new leadership, LoCo will begin some targeted marketing campaigns to drive LoCo sales volumes as well as empowering local restaurant owners to take delivery back and to be able to maximize revenues and efficiencies from pick-ups and deliveries.
“We’re hoping Omaha responds to the challenges we’re overcoming, and the new app will produce a fresh burst of orders for our local, independent restaurants,” said Harrison of Big Mama’s Kitchen.
“The national 3rd party delivery services have extracted over $21 million from the Omaha metro since their start,” reported LoCo Co-Operatives President Jon Sewell, citing numbers seen across markets where local delivery services area being tracked, “and there’s no hint they plan to curb or stop any of their extractive or exploitative practices, from underpaying drivers to overcharging restaurants, harvesting customer data or establishing fake restaurants in ghost kitchens to take market share, much like Amazon’s generic labels steal business from their own retailers.”
The movement behind LoCo has been featured in NBC News, ABC News, Mother Jones, NPR’s Marketplace, New York Times, Business Insider, and industry trade media like Restaurant Hospitality, Nation’s Restaurant News, Food Institute, Food and Environment Reporting Network, as well as equity-focused informational sites like Next City.