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Dining on deliveries: Meal service Ordaz Express spreads its wings

Published:Sunday | March 8, 2015 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon

Elroy Jones started his meal delivery business in high school.

He trekked back and forth to the canteen and bought lunches for all the other students who could not be bothered to make the trip and delivered it to them in the classroom or wherever they chose to sit.

Now, Jones has a full scale meal delivery operation - Ordaz Express Restaurant Delivery Service.

He fine-tuned his idea and, with the help of friends and family, launched the company in June last year with one contracted bearer.

Ordaz Express now contracts a fleet of 10 bikers to deliver meals across Greater Kingston and Portmore.

Jones' business takes orders online or by telephone which are purchased at the desired restaurants and delivered to the homes or offices of its clients.

The company delivers meals up to 9 p.m. but extends the service "as long as there is an available bearer", Jones told Sunday Business.

The bikers stand in that long line that we all dread to cash, then brings your meal right to you, he said, noting the company sees an uptick in demand for the service during the higher activity month end pay period.

Customers pay by debit or credit cards when the meals are delivered, he said, as the company scrapped its PayPal arrangement due to transaction costs.

Deliveries cost between $400 and $500, depending on the distance the bearers must travel, he said.

What started as a means to earn money to help himself while he attended York Castle High has blossomed into a business which now employs one dispatcher and contracts bearers from several communities to deliver the meals.

He says the idea has percolated since his childhood.

"Going to high school, I was one of the less fortunate kids. The auditorium where the lunches were sold was very far so I had to be going back and forth to get lunch for kids who were more fortunate," he said, adding that he held his idea very close to his chest, even throughout his college years, where he studied accounting and marketing, waiting on the right time to set up shop.

"Students would pay like a $20 and I would get their lunch for them and by the end of the day, I would have money to buy my lunch and even bus my fare," he said.

Jones said he further developed his idea when he travelled overseas and had the opportunity to see how similar companies handled the service.

Ordaz Empress is currently based in Portmore but is looking to branch out into Kingston, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jones said.

Of the decision to tap these areas, he said the middle to upper income brackets and tourist areas present ready avenues for revenue growth.

"These areas have working class persons who are busy and are not able to leave work at a particular time to go and get food," he said.

Jones has been in business for nine months, and he is bullish on the business.

"Revenues have been growing incrementally month to month. I'm getting new customers daily and it is growing. We have never seen a month where we have made less profit than we made in a previous month and we expand as it goes along," Jones told Sunday Business.

As it relates to the market's reception: "They love it," he said. "People say finally there is something like this in Jamaica. Jamaicans are exposed; they go overseas and see this kind of thing and they think, we need something like this where I can just sit at the office and get my lunch," he said.

The company has a deal in the pipeline to partner with a local online company to facilitate "a more seamless ordering process," he said.

Jones, through this undisclosed partner, will be going after other large fast food chains and eateries to add to a platform of local restaurants from which customers may order online. The alliances are meant to reduce turnaround time for deliveries.

"That will mean bikers won't necessarily have to join the lines because we will have an agreement with the restaurants," Jones explained.

Ordaz Express however already has standing contracts with restaurants such a Cafe What's On to deliver on its behalf.

"So it's not just for people who come to us to deliver for them. The companies themselves have asked us to do their delivery," he said.

Ordaz Express also has carved out a niche, delivering to areas that the larger eateries don't service.

"Some of the bearers are from volatile areas so its familiar territory," he said, while noting that the company is security-conscious and does its due diligence before dispatching an order.

"We try to operate where we know our customers; that's the best thing," he said. He also tracks the bearers on their deliveries.

Ordaz is pushing its online orders over call-in orders as the former lessens the chance of the orders being messed up, Jones told Sunday Business.

"Online is a more accurate option because you can choose your options. For example, for a KFC order, you can chose your flavour drink, whether you need barbeque, original or spicy and you can add notes such as 'no ice in the drinks'," he said.

However, the company has no plans to end call-in orders, saying there are customers who just prefer that option.

Ordaz Express is a nascent operation but Jones dreams of his company becoming a household name, "where once people thing of food they think of us," he said.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com