Food Pedaler Pivots on Two Wheels to Address New Realities
At a time when everything in Mound City seems to be closed, Alex Ward is hitting the streets to keep things going. Using two wheels to deliver food to those hunkered down at home, his company, Food Pedaler is providing some much-needed support to our beleaguered food service and restaurant industry.
Ward’s story begins in 2018, when, while doing an internship at FleishmanHillard, he noticed a member of Food Pedaler picking up food at a deli in his building. Intrigued by the concept and looking to decompress and do some biking during the summer, he applied for a job.
Realizing that he was in a position to combine his passion for biking with his marketing chops, Ward offered suggestions and fresh ideas and began to make his mark with the company. His go-getter gumption caught the eye of owner Tim Kiefer (who founded Food Pedaler in 2013). In July of 2019, Kiefer agreed to sell his company to Ward.
Since then, Ward has tweaked Food Pedaler by redesigning the website, releasing mobile apps for iPhone and Android, partnering with new restaurants and expanding the brand’s philanthropy efforts by joining forces with The Fit and Food Connection, a local organization dedicated to providing healthy living resources through food, fitness and nutrition to low-income families in the St. Louis area. Ward also retrofit Food Pedaler with weekly and monthly subscription services.
Determined to expand his business to The Delmar Loop, The Grove and Shaw—with an eye toward a greater reach into Maplewood and Webster Groves—this feisty entrepreneur was suddenly forced to refocus his priorities with the onset on COVID-19. Knowing that the city he loved needed a reliable delivery service to assist the public and provide income for restaurants, Ward has set his business plan aside to assist restaurant owners and employees caused by the virus’ outbreak.
“Food Pedaler is offering our help to any restaurant in our delivery area [Central West End, Forest Park Southeast, the north end of The Grove, Downtown and Downtown West] who needs a reliable delivery service to keep their business moving,” he says. “Because some restaurants may not be able to afford our service at this time because their in-house business has halted, we are now offering online ordering for takeout at highly discounted rate. Since we have the infrastructure already in place for online ordering, we want to share our resources with restaurants who don’t already have online ordering available.”
Food Pedaler is also modifying its operating procedures to adapt to the changing needs of its customers. “The obvious thing is that we still need to offer reliable delivery,” Ward says. “We still need to get the food to them quickly. Recently, because of the corona virus, we are offering contactless delivery. Customers can leave special instructions telling us to leave the delivery at the door or on the porch or any other location they specify.”
However, as the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, finding a quick way to help the local dining community is easier said than done. To help drum up business and procure revenue streams for his clients, Ward is deploying his business acumen, marketing savvy and digital platforms. “I’ve recommended that they promote our partnership as much as possible on their social media and websites. There’s only so much Food Pedaler can do in the other direction, since there’s one of us and 30 of them, but we post regularly and have been advertising our service through Google Ads. To the restaurants that have closed for the next few weeks, partner restaurants and non-partner restaurants alike, their employees who enjoy cycling are more than welcome to apply for jobs with us for some temporary part-time work.”
Having set the wheels in motion to help local restaurants, Food Pedaler’s efforts to connect consumers with local eateries has resulted in a 25-percent spike in sales this past week from the week before. And while Ward says it is too early to tell if that success will continue, he remains determined to meet the increased demand for his company’s services.
Despite his cyclists’ Herculean efforts, they cannot solve this dire situation alone. When asked what can be done to help restaurant and bar owners and staff, he offered advice on how communities can assist. “Fans of restaurants can pick up orders, use curbside takeout or, as is often the case for bars that do not serve food, buy gift cards and merchandise. That way they continue to have a steady revenue stream.” He adds, “Another important thing to remember is that this is the time for fans of restaurants and bars to be promoters and talk and post about the products or services their favorite places are offering.”
Looking beyond the numbers, Ward explained why his assistance is not all about the money: “The take-out/carry-out option we’re offering may add a little bit of revenue for us, but not much. The important thing is helping restaurants earn more money with a very low-cost online ordering and takeout option. Plus, it may start a relationship with restaurants within and outside of our delivery areas that could form into a delivery partnership eventually. I’m confident that our typical fans will continue using our delivery service, which will bring in the majority of revenue.”
Despite the daunting circumstances and fluidity of updated news about the coronavirus, Ward and his Food Pedaler team remain resilient, flexible and fast on their feet as they meet the challenges of helping stabilize St. Louis’ tenuous dining economy in the wake of COVID-19.
Images courtesy of Food Pedaler.