Back in 2008, Scott Leandra was a mortgage professional with no entrepreneurial plans. But one night, his life changed because he became bored with pizza.
“I was living in Sandy Hook and there were no restaurant delivery services except for one pizza place,” he remembered. “And it was good pizza, but after a while you get tired of the same thing. I lived in other places in the country and I knew there were delivery services that worked with multiple restaurants and I thought, boy, I wish they had something like that here.”
Leandra began making inquiries with restaurant owners to see if they would be interested in participating in a new delivery service. In his concept, the restaurants would list their menus on a website where customers would place their orders. The delivery service would bring the meals and collect the money, reimbursing the restaurants every two weeks after taking out a preset delivery fee.
Having gained positive feedback from the local restaurants, Leandra spent 1 1/2 years working on the digital and personnel logistics of the enterprise, which employs eight people as area managers and in customer service. With startup costs at a relatively low $4,500, he launched Vroom Service Now, operating from an office at 487 Federal Road in Brookfield.
“We opened our doors on Feb. 2, 2010, with five restaurants,” Leandra said. “Now, we have about 130 restaurants in 28 towns. We go as far north as New Milford, Gaylordsville and Washington, as far east as Woodbury and Southbury — we are expanding out to Waterbury — and as far west as Carmel, New York. We’re now down in Trumbull and Shelton and moving into lower Fairfield County.”
The Vroom Service Now delivery fee charged to customers starts at $3.99 and tiers up to $6.99, depending on location. The service travels within 10 miles of the participating restaurant, and minimum orders for delivery are $17.
Vroom contracts for its 45 drivers with a third party that Leandra declined to identify. One driver, David Harvey, is now the company’s co-owner.
“I was friends with Scott and I owned a doggie day care,” said Harvey. “I drove part time to make extra money — I was getting married and saving up for that. One day, Scott approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming his partner in this company. In June 2016, I officially bought into the business.”
“You want to work with people you trust and like,” Leandra said, adding that Harvey is focused on the operations side of the business while he focuses on business development and marketing. “Dave brought real tools to the table — I was looking for someone with his skill set.”
Vroom Service Now averages between 130 and 150 deliveries per day. The dinner hours are the busiest time and ordering customers are most active on Fridays and Saturdays. Leandra learned from the restaurants that the delivery service is also bringing in foot traffic.
“Our website gets over 1,000 hits a day,” he said. “And the restaurant gets walk-in business, too, because not all of those 1,000 people are ordering for delivery. A lot of restaurants tell us they get new business from walk-ins because of us.”
Restaurants using the service become mobile app-ready through their Vroom connection, which has helped to drive an increased level of advanced ordering, Leandra said. “Once they’re menu is on our site, they have a mobile app. And it is 24 hours a day — a customer can go online and order for a delivery tomorrow for five o’clock in the afternoon.”
Looking ahead, Vroom is setting its sights on a larger regional footprint, with a few limits.
“We want to move west to the Hudson River and east to the Connecticut River,” said Leandra. “We’re probably not going to do New Haven, but we’re going to try to do the surrounding towns. Suburbia is our bread and butter. We have no interest in Manhattan.”
The company is interested in lower Fairfield County, and Leandra explained he needed Harvey on board before going further in that territory. “In order to manage a larger area, you need more people and the right people,” he said. “If we’re going to give good service, we have to be ready before we launch it.”
Vroom is also expanding its service lineup to include corporate catering and full-service marketing on behalf of independently owned restaurants. And while there is competition from nationally prominent food delivery services, the company’s local presence has been a major selling point for signing new restaurants.
“We go to our partner restaurants,” said Harvey. “We eat there, we drink there, we meet our friends there.”
“A lot of the family restaurants prefer to work with someone they can reach out and touch,” added Leandra. “We’re not trying to take over the world — we’re trying to be the best in our neighborhoods.”