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U.S. Postal Service, FedEx Have New Competition…from Waffle House

Fiscal Times logo Fiscal Times 2/24/2015 Yuval Rosenberg
© Billy Hathorn/Wikimedia

If there’s one thing the sharing economy needed more of, it’s waffles. Now it’s getting them.

Waffle House, the breakfast food chain with more than 1,750 locations in 25 states, has announced a new partnership with a small app-based delivery startup called Roadie, which is looking to become the Uber of package delivery.

Roadie says its app “connects people with items to send with drivers who are already heading in the right direction.”

“Think of us as the first neighbor-to-neighbor shipping network,” Roadie’s website reads. “We’re building a faster, cheaper, friendlier way to get your stuff where it’s going.”

Waffle House’s 24-hour diners will serve as part of a network of meeting points for those senders and drivers, or drivers and package recipients — putting the restaurant chain firmly in the territory of FedEx, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. Roadie drivers can get a free waffle for downloading the app and a free drink when they make a delivery (plus 80 percent of the fee Roadie gets, which reportedly will range from $12 to $200).

Roadie just launched in the Southeast last month, and it’s gotten $10 million in early investments from backers like Warren Stephens of Stephens Inc., Guggenheim Partners’ Executive Chairman Alan Schwartz, Square Co-founder Jim McKelvey, Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures and even the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund. (Yes, UPS, which dropped its memorable “What can Brown do for you?” campaign several years ago, is now asking what apps and waffles can do for you.) For now, though, the app has only been downloaded about 7,500 times, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Roadie drivers have only been asked to deliver about 50 items.

Roadie will undoubtedly face some challenges as it looks to grow, like making sure drivers aren’t used to deliver contraband or illegal items — an issue that has resulted in legal troubles for the much larger FedEx and UPS — and convincing would-be drivers to go out of their way, even briefly, for a few extra bucks.

The waffles might help. “Waffle House provides a friendly, comfortable place for our folks to meet, and grab a plate of scattered, smothered and covered while they’re at it,” Marc Gorlin, the founder and CEO of Roadie, said in a statement announcing the deal. Or as Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer said in the statement, “who doesn’t love waffles?”

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