August 29, 2023 Featured Spotlight

An Interview with Chris Heffernan, CEO and Founder of dlivrd

Chris Heffernan, the CEO and founder of dlivrd, launched the on-demand, same-day catering, and food delivery service in 2018. This platform that all started with a cheesesteak in Philadelphia has become one of the fastest-growing delivery services and now serves over 150 markets across the U.S. and Canada. As part of the DRA’s mission to share educational resources and solutions for restaurants to thrive in the digital world, Chris sat down with the DRA to talk about how a combination of fee and data transparency and human connection ensures a more sustainable and beneficial delivery ecosystem for restaurants and customers. 

DRA: What do you think the state of the digital marketplace is right now?

Chris: Right now the delivery landscape is kind of broken because there’s an unequal balance between restaurants, delivery services, and other involved companies. I call them all quarter takers—everybody wants a quarter here, a quarter there. Basically everyone is trying to chip away at that profit line. I don’t know why but restaurants are the ones that everybody decided to take from. Everyone just assumes that restaurants have all this money, and because these companies know that restaurants need these types of services, they can’t refuse the set prices. It’s just easy prey. 

You have high commission rates, high delivery fees, and a lack of coordination between all these different kinds of data—not to mention the lack of data given to restaurants by third-party platforms. That’s what we’re aiming to fix. We want to provide a solid driver fleet through [our AI technology platform] Fredrick to optimize delivery times and fees for the customer, we want to provide data transparency so that the restaurants know who they’re delivering to and where those deliveries are going, and want to provide a good experience to that end customer for the restaurant.

DRA: Why is data transparency important? Why do restaurants need to know who they’re serving?

Chris: It’s not necessarily about not offering it—it’s that we’re just not hiding it because at the end of the day, it’s not even our data. It’s difficult for restaurants to make proper decisions about things like marketing when a platform says something like, “invest this much in marketing but we won’t tell you where it goes or who will see it.”

This is important for restaurants because they deserve to know where their customers are and change their operations based on who they serve. For example, if a restaurant’s main customer base is mostly located in one part of town that is known to be highly populated by Gen Z, restaurants can make informed decisions about how and where they’re marketing to fit this demographic. But they need that data to make those decisions. This data is not only important for marketing but also for efficiently providing customers with the best service. 

DRA: What is dlivrd doing to help restaurants run efficient and profitable operations?

Chris: I think that can be answered in a short phrase I said on a podcast once: Humanize what’s important and automate everything else. We’re taking all the arduous tasks that can be done by AI or system, and we’re getting that system, who we’ve coined “Fredrick,” to help with all of these smaller, menial tasks.

But, most importantly, on the other end of any good AI is a good human team—someone that is there to engage with the client or the customer. This human team provides that humanized connection that all the automation allows us to double down on. That does a few things for the restaurant:

  1. Gives a better experience for the driver and that in turn results in a better experience for the customer.
  2. Fredrick also has the ability to optimize order delivery by pooling drivers from different platforms which also results in a lower price per delivery for restaurants.

DRA: Why is dlivrd’s community-oriented approach important to you?

Chris: Delivering food isn’t sexy. However, what we are doing is putting millions of dollars in drivers pockets every month and that’s allowing those drivers to pay bills, support their families, and put it into their own communities.

So when we look at our KPI’s during our weekly meetings, the slides that are most important to me are the ones that show how we’ve touched the people and communities that we deliver in. I would feel disingenuous about those numbers if we didn’t actually have the human connection that so many of us look for when we’re frustrated with a chatbot.

I think about when realtors put their faces on their business cards so it’s harder to throw away. It helps build strong brand loyalty when customers are able to experience human elements in their interaction with dlivrd and our platform. We want our customers to think, “I’m going to go with dlivrd’s platform over the competitors platform because they did ‘x’ or I like talking to Joe in dlivrd’s call center.” That’s just what we’re really trying to do, doubling down on human connection. 
Outside of dlivrd, community involvement is also huge for us. A big piece of what I look at in these metrics is how much money we put into our drivers and local community events that we sponsor. Today, I’m wearing our “dlivrd Supports Autism Acceptance” shirt which is from a local fundraiser in Philadelphia that we participated in with the Philadelphia Eagles Autism Nonprofit Organization. dlivrd has also sponsored local little league teams and helped fundraise at Glenside Youth Athletic Club events. We want to show other businesses that there are other ways to market your business and also give back to the community.