Here are three important lessons about business and service from this new restaurant delivery business startup in Michigan.

We love independent restaurant delivery service (RDS) businesses, and this news story about a new RDS in Michigan caught our eye. Founded by Michael Lie and Yohana Isabella, MI Meal Time was profiled by MLive. So naturally, we read every word with interest.

In fact, we decided to turn it into a case study to share with other RDS owners in the community. Here’s our breakdown of three things that MI Meal Time is doing right:

Focusing on local restaurant delivery

The movement to support local businesses has been around for a long time. But the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a massive spike in consumer desire to patronize small, local businesses over big brands. As a result, many people became fiercely protective of their hometown favorites and went out of their way to keep those businesses going.

MI Meal Time is keeping its service footprint concentrated on a single, defined region of Michigan. Over time, they plan to expand across the entire state. But for now, they’re focused on perfecting their service in a small area before they scale.

Working within a defined target area is a brilliant move. MI Meal Time isn’t spreading itself too thin by trying to establish itself in a dozen cities at once. Instead, they can pour all their energy into building a good reputation and loyal customer base in one area. 

They’re also building a foundation for scaling their business over time.

MI Meal Time is also planning to partner up with local favorites as well as big brand restaurants. It can be tempting to focus on the big guys, since they have more infrastructure in place. But small restaurants usually have extremely loyal customers. So by offering services to those businesses, MI Meal Time expands its own potential customer base.

Focusing on better customer service 

Lie, and Isabella started MI Meal Time after growing frustrated with the poor service provided by big-name RDSs. They were especially compelled by the impact of bad delivery service on restaurants’ reputations. Mi Meal Time is built on its belief that the RDS is responsible for ensuring a quality experience.

Many small restaurants have come forward to share how RDSs have tarnished their reputations. But MI Meal Time has built its restaurant delivery business startup around the protection and support of its restaurant clients. In fact, they believe it’s their responsibility:

“The company should actually take care of [things] to make sure that the customer, in the end, will get a better product, that the restaurant itself and the meal actually deserve to be presented to the customer,” says Lie. This foresight and commitment to service will serve MI Meal Time well.

Letting delivery drivers keep their tips

A few of the big names in restaurant delivery are criticized for unfair tipping policies and tip skimming. When stories like this one go viral, the brand’s reputation can really suffer. These practices can severely limit how much a delivery driver can earn. One study estimates that some drivers make less than $2 an hour.

MI Meal Time has publicly shared its commitment to fair pay. They pay all their drivers based on delivery fees and let them keep 100% of their tips.

This is a brilliant strategy for many reasons. For starters, it inspires employee loyalty. If you’re the best-paying delivery gig in town, you won’t have any trouble attracting—and keeping—drivers. 

And the longer your drivers stay with you, the better they get at their jobs. And in this industry, you want excellent drivers. The delivery driver is often the customer’s only human interaction throughout the food delivery process. So if they can provide a fantastic experience, it reflects well on you and your restaurant clients.

Fair pay is about more than just employee loyalty

It goes back to the issue of customer service. This California study found that increasing employee wages directly impacted the service they provided. In the words of research team member Vrinda Kadiyali: “If you pay employees more, they provide better service.” Kadiyali’s team found this is especially true for small businesses rather than large chains. 

Small businesses—including RDSs—have more control over the whole experience, which gives them leverage over national brands. 

By committing to paying their employees well, MI Meal Time is leveraging the correlation between pay and service. This one practice will have significant ripple effects throughout their business and set them up for success.

The DataDreamers team is looking forward to watching MI Meal Time learn and grow. Of course, we’re always excited to see a restaurant delivery business startup innovate and thrive. 

If you’re thinking about starting an RDS or ready to take yours to the next level, we’re here to help. DataDreamers is a top-quality RDS software designed to help you deliver great food and excellent service. Experienced delivery business veterans develop our platform, so you’ll find every feature you could dream of. And, like MI Meal Time, we’re committed to fair and transparent pricing. Learn more about DataDreamers >