Food delivery is having its moment. We can thank the pandemic for that, when safety remains a deep-seated concern at the forefront of our minds, right there next to the desire for a restaurant-quality meal that we can enjoy in the comfort of our homes. But back in March of 2020, food delivery in Newport was more of a challenge for restaurants than most realized.
The restaurant industry was among the hardest hit by COVID-19. With people hunkered down inside their homes, many were forced to shut their doors, with the ability to offer delivery to sustain profit hindered by hefty fees and commissions - sometimes upwards of 30% - from delivery chain services like DoorDash and UberEats.
Enter: Newport Dine Out
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The local, contact-free delivery service was founded in May of 2020. It's free for restaurants and "always will be," says Anthony Spiratos, who founded the company after noticing how few restaurants were able to offer delivery at the start of the pandemic because of steep fees.
It's months later now, and Newport Dine Out is offering delivery from 42 restaurants across Newport County, with plans to expand throughout the state. Below is a Q&A with Spiratos on how Newport Dine Out started and plans for the future.
Q: Tell us a little about when and how Newport Dine Out started.
A: Our story started at the beginning of the global pandemic when Covid-19 reached Aquidneck Island. I drove down Broadway and Thames Street one night and wondered why not many restaurants were doing delivery and were closed when the Governor forced a shut down. After talking to restaurants and researching the largest delivery companies in America, I saw an alarming trend. Delivery was simply unattainable to most restaurants during the pandemic because of the high commissions out-of-state, billion-dollar apps were charging. Restaurants either had to do it themselves, which was costly in terms of overhead, or they had to use the major app-based delivery services, which charged 15% to 30% in commissions, only making about .10 cents on the dollar if they were lucky, or they had to close.
I thought to myself there has to be a better way of doing things! That is when No Contact Valet & Newport Dine Out was born. A sense of community drives this company. This is home for me and has been my entire life.
There is a better way of doing things and we are that better way.
Q: Can you explain how Newport Dine Out works for people who may not have heard of it or used it before?
A: We are free for restaurants to use and we always will be. No set up cost, 0% commission, no fees of any kind for restaurants as long as this company exists. Our customer fees are just as transparent: When someone makes an order, there's a flat $5 delivery fee, as well as a 2.9% transaction fee.
Our goal is to not just be a company. Our mission and what drives us is to save the very backbone of this island: the restaurant industry. We will not sit idly by while a foreign virus that reached our shores of our island and extreme government shut downs wreak havoc on our beloved island.
With my resources at my disposal, and the amazingly talented business minds in my company, it is my goal to muster up that better way of doing things. It is my goal to put anyone who has been laid off in the restaurant and hospitality industry back to work and save the restaurant industry as a whole.
My company will also be donating 10% of all company profits to the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center Food Bank & The Potter League For Animals where my dog Riley came from.
Q: What is your experience in the restaurant business?
A: Prior to the pandemic I had no experience in the restaurant business. I was just a loyal customer for years at many of the establishments we brought on and partnered with. I do have more than 20 years experience in owning several companies along with being a real estate developer. Some of my ventures were in the hospitality industry, such as owning and operating multiple oceanfront luxury Airbnbs right here on Aquidneck Island.
Q: What sets this apart from DoorDash or UberEats, or similar larger delivery services?
A: We are locally-owned and based right here in Middletown. We are about transparency and are very community-oriented. We are also different from the big delivery apps because we don’t charge restaurants any commissions at all while they work with us. Restaurants never pay a dime so they get to keep 100% of what they make. Most big delivery apps charge restaurants 15-30% commissions. When you use our delivery service you’re helping the local restaurant industry.
Q: How many restaurants are on Newport Dine Out and which locations do you deliver to?
A: Currently we partner with 42 restaurants to offer delivery to Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Jamestown. We will soon be expanding off island to the rest of the state.
Q: How can people make an order?
A: To order delivery, visit newportdineout.com where you can select the restaurant you’d like and order using our online ordering platform.
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