Gourmet Delivery Service Says Let Them Eat Squid
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ It’s the only place in town that delivers Kung Pao Squid, Veal Piccata, Quesadilla Ranchera and meat loaf.
Waiters on Wheels Inc., the city’s only gourmet delivery service, offers a plethora of entrees that gives everyone from the bedridden to the just plain lazy a chance to enjoy some of San Francisco’s most popular eateries without leaving home.
Founded by two Greek immigrants about seven months ago, Waiters on Wheels took what for many takeout eaters was a choice of pizza or Chinese food, and added French wine, steaks, pasta dishes and an array of desserts.
″We wanted people in the city the chance to not have to eat pizza,″ said co-founder Takis Zarikos, who has lived in the United States 10 years. ″We wanted to offer them nice, gourmet food.″
Last year, his partner Constantine Stathopoulous, who has lived in the United States for 11 years, tired of having to settle for pizza when he did not want to cook or go out. Over coffee one day, the two friends decided to form a multi-restaurant delivery service.
Both had years of experience in the San Francisco restaurant business, Zarikos as a manager and Stathopoulous as a head waiter.
The plan has been a success for them. Waiters on Wheels plans to add 10 new restaurants to its fall menu, bringing the total to 28, and is considering franchising east of San Francisco.
There are similar companies in other cities, such as Chicago and Los Angeles.
To get a delivery, a customer calls Waiters On Wheels and places an order from a 15-page brochure, where the restaurants have their own menus printed. The service places the order with the restaurant, via computer or telephone, and dispatches a driver to pick up the order and deliver it anywhere within the city limits.
In addition to offering convenience, Zarikos says, the service can boost a restaurant’s revenue.
″Restaurants can see that it is a way to make money without costing them anything. They can produce more without hiring additional help and they don’t use up extra space,″ Zarikos said.
However, a manager at Max’s Diner, one of Waiters on Wheels’ most popular clients, noted the service had some drawbacks.
″Sales with them have been tremendous. That’s the good side. The bad side is, there’s a lot of food we serve that shouldn’t be sitting around for awhile,″ said general manager Susan Cercone. ″Meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy aren’t too good after sitting around in Styrofoam for 45 minutes.″
Bull’s Texas Cafe, one of Waiters on Wheels’ newest clients, gave similarily mixed reviews. A Bull’s manager, Jim Greaves, said it was relatively expensive for his restaurant to start using Waiters On Wheels for deliveries. The restaurant spent nearly $700 on various fees and packaging to bring in an additional $1,700 in sales last month, Greaves said.
Although it is a ″terrific idea,″ one of the biggest drawbacks is that if a meal is not to the customer’s specification, Waiters on Wheels requires that the restaurant not charge for it, Greaves said.
″If that happened in a restaurant, we could easily correct it. But once it’s out to a person’s house, beyond our means, there’s nothing we can do.″