Chowbus is a niche food delivery startup that focuses exclusively on Asian restaurants. The company operates in more than 20 North American cities and closed a $33 million Series A funding round in August.
Benzinga had the opportunity to catch up with Chowbus Co-founder and CTO Suyu Zhang to better understand the unique business model and its role in the food delivery universe.
Not A Competitor To Uber: Chowbus is different from large delivery food platforms like Uber Technologies Inc (NYSE:UBER) as it focuses on one specific type of cuisine, Zhang told Benzinga in an e-mail. As such, its core consumer is already craving Asian food so it doesn't need to offer huge discounts to get people to order.
Chowbus views itself as a complementary food delivery company instead of a direct competitor to the UberEats of the world. Chowbus works with independent restaurants and views itself as part of the "ecosystem for the small mom-and-pop restaurants." By contrast, Uber is a "logistics company" with a goal of delivering "everything everywhere, including food."
On top of supporting small restaurants' delivery and pickup capabilities, Chowbus also helps with marketing and menu optimization.
Chowbus is very selective in what restaurants it welcomes to the platform and its unique business model, the executive said. Restaurants are often next door to each other and this allows for quick and efficient delivery for bundled orders.
Chowbus is part of a new trend in the food delivery business of platforms focusing on one cuisine, Zhang said. Other similar models include Meseras for Mexican Food and HappyCow for vegan food.
State Of Asian Restaurants: Benzinga reported back in April that Chinese restaurants were experiencing the most hardships amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Smaller mom-and-pop shops have "definitely been impacted the most" and it's a "difficult time for everyone," Zhang said.
"When the first COVID cases were reported in China in January, Asian restaurants had already started to lose business," Zhang said. "Thus, many of these businesses will need much more time to recover from the pandemic, even with in-person dining and coronavirus becoming less of a concern."
Encouragingly, Chowbus is now seeing steady growth even though restaurants are opening up for dine-in, Zhang said. Most of Chowbus' restaurant partners were already offering delivery prior to the pandemic, but the company can onboard a new restaurant in just a few days, Zhang said.
Finally, the best way to help support local restaurants and ensure their success is simply to order their food.
"While financial support from the government would be important, restaurants will benefit most from community support," Zhang said.