Lake’s Sunrise Cafe is tucked behind a supermarket on a side street, barely visible to passing motorists on nearby East Avenue in Battle Creek.
Lynn Lake has owned and managed the quaint diner for 20 years. With a staff of three and little internet presence beyond a Facebook page, she doesn’t have the capability to process and deliver online orders.
“I’ll take an order to deliver if it’s $75 to $100,” Lake said. “It has to be big enough.”
But now she’s got someone else to do it, regardless of the size of the order.
Lake’s Sunrise Cafe was recently added to the roster of local restaurants using the Mr. Delivery service.
It’s one of several food delivery services available in Battle Creek, as many consumers opt for convenience over savings.
Companies are engaging in a food fight to lock down markets in a growing industry that is projected to generate $365 billion globally by 2030.
The first pizza delivery, by most accounts, dates back to 1889.
But locally-owned and even national chain restaurants outsourcing delivery services is a newer development.
Jasper Gary, a Mr. Delivery sales rep for Michigan, said the company started delivering in Battle Creek in 2018 and currently delivers food from 44 restaurants in the city.
They’re not they only ones.
“In Battle Creek, we got there before everybody else and made it easier,” Gary said. “They still love us out there. Now they have another option. They are trying DoorDash and GrubHub. In Jackson, we got there behind DoorDash, and they made our job easier. That gave people a chance to see what people can really do. We gave them another option. It goes both ways.”
Customers can build their order and pay for their food through the Mr. Delivery app or website. The Battle Creek service runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with estimated delivery times between 45 minutes and an hour.
While Mr. Delivery has contracts with national chains like Buffalo Wild Wings, Applebee’s and Finley’s, agreements with small businesses like Lake’s Sunrise Cafe are more or less done through a handshake. Delivery services don’t need permission to list an establishment on their website or app.
“I don’t have a contract with them,” Lake said. “(Gary) said, ‘When people have called, I come pick it up.’ That’s fine…They had people wanting our food.”
Farm to Sprout to table
Sprout, a non-profit organization in Springfield, has been delivering its customizable Sprout Box since 2013.
“We’re an online grocery store of local goods,” said Sprout founder Jeremy Andrews. “We’re an aggregator of products from local farms. Our biggest goal as a company is to help grow local food businesses and help them get their product to market.”
Sprout, formerly known as Sprout Urban Farms, has expanded its operations to include an incubator kitchen for rent, thanks in part to a nearly $750,000 three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Andrews said his organization has to battle misconceptions that it is a community supported agriculture farm, and that the Sprout Box only includes vegetables.
“We do have produce, the best, freshest, closest-to-home produce you can get,” he said. “Just as important, we have other food, local grass-fed beef, whitefish and trout. We have vegan food products, tons of shelf-stable snacks, frozen foods and vegetables that may not be in season yet. We have this all year long.”
To order a Sprout Box, consumers must first sign up for a weekly or bi-weekly membership, starting at $15. Any items over the limit are charged, and at-home-delivery requires an additional $5 charge. There are also several pickup locations around Battle Creek, and companies like Denso Manufacturing and Kellogg Co. have their own delivery sites.
“We have customers that buy all of their groceries, then customers that use us as a supplement to traditional groceries,” Andrews said. “Everybody is moving towards shopping online. We want to make it easy for people to shop local, because consumers demand easier and easier ways to purchase things.”
Lucretia Watts of Battle Creek loves to shop.
She loves it so much, that she decided to make a career out of it, joining Shipt as a shopper.
Shipt is available for pickup and delivery of Meijer products in Battle Creek and available for pickup and delivery of Target and Petco products in the 49015 zip code. So Watts joined the team.
“I’m an empty nester now, so I have a whole lot of time on my hands,” she said. “Before becoming a shopper, I was a member. After my first delivery, I was compelled to search online on how to become a shopper. It’s very convenient. It’s a flexible schedule and work whenever you want to work.”
Competing with Shipt and Sprout in the Battle Creek grocery delivery market is Instacart, which offers pickup and delivery at Family Fare, Aldi and Sam’s Club. Consumers are charged $3.99 on orders over $35 to use the service, and the annual fee for Instacart Express is $99, or $9.99 per month.
Using Shipt requires membership fees, either $14 per month or $99 annually. Once an order is placed using the Shipt website or app, the consumer is paired with a shopper like Watts, who communicates to the consumer whether an item is available at the store through text messaging.
The shoppers are essentially independent contractors, and can receive tips at the completion of the order. While you can’t request specific shoppers, you can give them a high rating and feedback, which makes it more likely that an algorithm will pair you with them for future purchases.
“I shop for the disabled, working parents and homemakers. I’ve heard a lot of good comments from Shipt customers,” Watts said. “It allows them to shop from home and get their groceries delivered right to their door. It allows them to do things without worrying about shopping. I had people tell me they have anxiety, so they are not able to be around large crowds of people, so they are very grateful to the service.”
Nick Buckley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley
Food delivery services in Battle Creek
• Mr. Delivery
• Sprout Box