In August, iChowDown began delivering food from across the city of Athens to those in the area.
iChowDown is a third party food delivery service that delivers food from over 26 restaurants to the surrounding Athens region. The business was started by former Ohio University students Sam Bowser and Brennan Dudziak who saw an interest in the surrounding region for a delivery business that is tailored to the region.
“We're … just like Doordash, but we're here in town,” Bowser, co-owner of iChowDown said. “We're 30% faster on average. That means we deliver in about 35 to 40 minutes rather than 55 to 65 minutes.”
The business delivers from many local and small businesses including Buffalo Wild Wings, IHOP, and Donkey Coffee. Delivery from Donkey Coffee includes bulk coffee and individual lattes.
The business has a team of about 100 employees and features 12 delivery drivers, all of whom Bowser personally interviews.
Bowser emphasizes the importance of keeping costs down for the customer and allowing drivers to make a reasonable amount.
“Our drivers get paid 100% of the delivery fee and 100% of the tips,” Bowser said. “That's not what DoorDash does. They will take a part of that out.”
iChowDown focuses on serving Athens and the surrounding area, not just the students of OU.
“We honestly have really slim profit margins … but we really try to do our best to provide for this community,” Bowser said. “It is a small community, it's not rich … we recognize that as being a part of the Athens community, not just as college students, but the people that live here in town.”
iChowDown has also partnered with local businesses to make the entire ordering process easier.
“It's for a mutual benefit (and) more sales,” Bowser said. “Sometimes it makes (orders) cheaper for the customer. We were able to reduce the fees for the customer, so it's really valuable for both of us because that just increased our sales overall for both sides. On top of that, it's just a lot easier to communicate one-on-one.”
Bowser also believes experience and trust are important with his delivery drivers.
“Personally, I don't think that it's appropriate for any one of them to not have at least a bare minimum food experience, because, first off, they're handling it. They're bringing it to you. Driving is not a hard skill; I’ve got a driver's license … but the big thing is whether or not I can trust them with that food,” Bowser said.
Bowser also said the hiring rate for drivers is only about 40%.
“I am really, really focused on my drivers, because it's a front-face experience for the customer, because if they do not have a good experience with my drivers, then they're not going to come back to us,” Bowser said. “So I always make sure that there's a good personality, they have food experience ... they’re someone charismatic and they're able to be personable.”
In the future, the business is looking to expand, but not to larger areas like Columbus, Bowser said.
“We actually really want to be the Appalachian service, because it's something that a lot of these people have not experienced. We’ve got calls from...people in Guysville, and they said ‘This is the first time we ever experienced this I've lived here my entire life,’” Bowser said.
Some students are interested in the business. Colin Russell, a freshman studying electrical engineering, said he likes how iChowDown is focused on the region.
“It is very good for the town of Athens in particular, as it is focused on it. It shows they care a lot about the Athens community and the student population, which is something much better than something much larger (like), let's say, Doordash,” Russell said.
Others, like Kaitlyn Urbaniak, a junior studying psychology and social work, don’t usually get their food delivered. Urbaniak is still, however, interested in the idea.
“I think it's unique, and I like it,” Urbaniak said. “I've never heard anything like it before.”
Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated someone’s name. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.