With their new business, Simply Delivery, Ben Nicholson and Brandon Hefner want to bring Tyler’s favorite restaurants to Tylerites — at home, work or wherever they may be.
“Beep! Beep! Yum!” is their trademark. “You crave it. We deliver it.” is their motto.
The concept is simple. Call Simply Delivery with a restaurant order, and they will pick it up and deliver it for a fee.
“If we weren’t trying to put all of our money into our company, we’d probably be our biggest customers,” Hefner said, adding that they like to get food delivered to their home but got tired of pizza and sandwiches.
Best friends, roommates and now business partners, Nicholson, 26, and Hefner, 27, both come from entrepreneurial families.
Hefner grew up in Troup, attended Tyler Junior College and studied business at Texas State University — San Marcos before returning to East Texas to work for his father’s company. He continues to work as an account manager for S.A.Y. Plastics Inc., an injection molding plant in Jacksonville.
Nicholson moved to Tyler from central California when he was in junior high school, attended Blinn College for two years before earning his associate’s degree from TJC and working for his father’s oil company, Nicholson Land Services in Tyler.
The partners met each other through mutual friends after high school.
Both San Marcos and College Station had restaurant delivery service businesses. After moving back home, the pair became roommates and began researching the idea of bringing a similar business to Tyler. They are offering delivery service to all Tyler restaurants, trying to show restaurants there is a market for delivery and to see what restaurants people want to order from, Nicholson said.
“It seems like every time they open a restaurant, they break records,” he said of why he thought the service would work in Tyler. “People like to eat out here.”
Nicholson said a motorcycle wreck that left him recovering for about a year spurred them to go ahead with forming the company. When he began handing out fliers to just about every business in town — car dealerships and churches — he was still wearing a boot from having ankle surgery.
The men made their first delivery on Jan. 18. Nicholson said they are starting to advertise but are still working on a pretty small scale, because they didn’t want to grow too big too fast.
Hefner said they thought their biggest customers would be businesses during lunch, but it has been residential customers who have used their service the most.
Nicholson said they have been getting a lot of calls from senior citizens and disabled residents who might not want to or can’t get out of the house.
Simply Delivery’s delivery area is south of Texas Highway 31, north of Loop 49 and from the Cascades Country Club area in the west to The University of Texas at Tyler area to the east. They average about 15 deliveries a day and have four drivers.
How long a customer waits for their order depends on the cook time of the specific restaurant. Hefner said they focus on service and don’t make two deliveries at once, serving one customer at a time.
This week, they were working to get their website up and running to have customers order online from seven restaurants they have under contract. They include Basil Thai Café, Cheng’s China Bistro, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Fat Catz Louisiana Kitchen, Mario’s Italian Restaurant, Quiznos and What About Kabob? They hope to add other kinds of restaurants, including a steakhouse and burger place.
Nicholson said they are entering into delivery contracts with restaurants that are mostly locally owned and hope they can help those businesses as well as their own.
Nu Thapong, 26, manages his parent’s restaurant, Basil Thai Café, and said Simply Delivery has been making deliveries for them for a few months.
“It’s good to have a delivery service because we don’t do delivery,” he said. The restaurant has had a lot of calls from Simply Delivery but he believes as the business grows, it could help them even more. Thapong said local business owners need to help each other more and Simply Delivery can help restaurants increase their sales.
Thapong’s family opened Basil Thai Café, at 1700 SSE Loop 323, Suite 102, about four years ago. He said Nicholson and Hefner are regular customers at his restaurant and he considers them close friends.
Hefner said the restaurants are starting to see the benefits of the to-go orders. Although the restaurants they have contracts with give Simply Delivery discounts on food orders, they believe the restaurants’ profits are higher on to-go orders because they eliminate some of the needed services, like wait staff, he said.
“We’ve been able to bring two restaurants over $250 in sales in just one day,” Nicholson said. They even had a business order lunches for 60 people from The Diner and because they gave a day’s notice, the delivery “went off without a hitch.”
“We don’t want to steal anyone’s catering business,” Nicholson said. “We want to focus on small orders they (catering businesses) won’t deliver.”
Simply Delivery charges delivery fees based on how much food is ordered.
For now, customers can still order from any restaurant when they call Simply Delivery, but that could change. Nicholson said when they get more restaurants signed up, they will only offer their services exclusively to those under contract.
They hope to continue growing their business enough to need a full-time dispatcher, more delivery drivers, and they want to open a second location in Longview by the end of the year, Nicholson said.