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New website offers online ordering for local restaurants

BY ALEX CORDERO | SEPTEMBER 12, 2011 7:20 AM

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For the owners of ICEats.com, a local online food ordering service, the phrase “middle man”means saving customers money.

So far, 13 local businesses, including Cheba Hut, Pita Pit, and Gumby’s Pizza, have joined the online service. These establishments pay ICEats roughly 8 percent of the total order for the company to fax them the orders placed through its website.

“We charge the companies instead of the customer, it’s the restaurants paying us to [bring in] the orders placed for their food,” said University of Iowa senior Matt Boltz, the UI campus manager for ICEats.

While the online service is new to Iowa City, it is not the first of its kind for UConnect LLC owner Matt Howard. Badgerbites.com was the first business developed by Howard and fellow students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“When I was a student in Madison, there was a similar service that began charging additional fees, so I and a couple friends decided to start up our own website that would make ordering food online free for the customers again,” Howard said.

The business, which began a year and a half ago, has since expanded to Ames, Iowa City, and Milwaukee.

As of today, Badger Bites averages anywhere from 200 to 400 online orders a day, which Howard anticipates similar success at the expansion sites in Iowa. Howard said one in three undergraduates at Wisconsin have used Badgerbites.

“ICEats has only been up and running for about three weeks now, so the number of orders was slow at first,” Boltz said. “However, in the last week, we have averaged about 20 orders a day.”

Mike Morgan, the assistant manager at Gumby’s Pizza,702 S Gilbert St., said he is pleased with the service so far.

“We definitely received some extra orders last week because of the online promotion through ICEats,” he said. “We have only been associated with it for a few weeks, but I don’t have any complaints thus far.”

As a way to differentiate itself from other online ordering services and create a sense of community, Boltz said, the company makes it its policy to donate 5 percent of the profit they make from each order to local charities.

The business has connected with several local charities including the Iowa Animal Care and Adoption Center, Relay for Life Johnson County, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Johnson County. Customers can choose where the proceeds go at the end of their order.

“We donate some of our profits to charities to be different from our competitors and as a way to connect with students,” Howard said. “It definitely helps when students feel like they’re doing something good for their community while just ordering food online.”


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