By Damian Dominguez
Andy Pfitzenmair sat, a stack of books under his left hand and a waffle pinched under the fork in his right. As he scarfed down waffles and hash browns at the Waffle House in the Five Points neighborhood of Columbia, there was no way he could have known that he was sitting in one of the next big hubs for the sharing economy.
Consider an Uber-like service that allows strangers to meet and carry packages for customers, usually for less money than FedEx or UPS would charge.
“But wait – this has something to do with Waffle House?” Pfitzenmair asked.
Waffle House has partnered with start-up app Roadie to provide a delivery service in which drivers who sign up with Roadie can take an item from one Waffle House and meet up with the item’s recipient at the Waffle House nearest its final destination.
Roadie has been active for about a month, but it has been downloaded over 7,500 times. The app operates a lot like the popular Uber taxi app, allowing people to sign up as drivers by submitting a photo of themselves and their driver’s license. Then the driver can pick up packages that others want to send and take them to their destination.
The goal is that drivers who are already traveling somewhere can simply carry the package with them.
The team behind Roadie is working on its background checking system to vet drivers, and it will be paying drivers a portion of the cost to ship. Roadie aims to keep rates lower than other package delivery companies to remain competitive.
Pfitzenmair’s initial confusion was replaced quickly by excitement. He said he’d gladly both use the service and sign up as a driver. “It’s neat to help people when you barely have to lift a finger,” he said.
The pairing made sense, he said, given the number of Waffle Houses across the country and the fact that customers tend to be regulars.
He dines at Waffle House about once every other week. “I’m a long time patron,” he said. “Ten years.”
He said that the appeal of the app format is the ability to network with people who are willing to ship a package. “It makes asking for help much easier,” he said.
He wasn’t alone in his initial bafflement at the announcement. A Columbia Waffle House employee at the Bluff Road location said she hadn’t heard about the deal yet. “That’s crazy,” she said.
She said she wasn’t convinced, and she questioned the safety of handing over a package to a Roadie driver.
“You don’t know who that is,” she said.