Chomp, an Iowa City-based food delivery service, is slated to launch next week

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Chomp, the area’s newest food delivery service, will begin to roll out next week. — photo by Zak Neumann

There’s going to be a new option in Iowa City for hungry people who don’t want to get off the couch: Chomp. It’s a locally-owned delivery service similar to OrderUp or GrubHub, “owned and operated by 20 of the busiest delivery restaurants in the Iowa City region,” according to a post on D.P. Dough’s Facebook page.

Jon Sewell, the owner of D.P. Dough, organized Chomp. He told Little Village the idea for a new service came after GrubHub purchased OrderUp in August, then shut down OrderUp’s Iowa City office and announced a price hike for restaurants participating in its app-based food ordering and delivery service.

“Having an app on a smartphone that allows people to access a wide array of restaurants has value,” Sewell said. “It’s valuable to the restaurants. It’s obviously valuable to the customers.”

But GrubHub’s announced price hike — charging 15 percent for online orders made through its app, and 25 percent for orders delivered by GrubHub drivers — made many Iowa City restaurants question whether it was worth using the service, according to Sewell.

“Basically they are doubling the cost to the restaurant,” Ofer Sivan, owner of Oasis Falafel, told Little Village. “That means I won’t be making money on any of those transactions. That is not very appealing.”

Chomp’s rates will be the same as those OrderUp charged before being acquired by GrubHub — 7.5 percent on orders made through its app, and 15 percent for orders that are delivered by Chomp drivers.

Sivan said he hasn’t decided yet if his restaurant will use Chomp, but he’s definitely interested in the new service.

“It’s a really creative idea. It’s something we hadn’t considered,” Sivan said. “There’s something very Iowa City about it. Through the ICDD [Iowa City Downtown District], businesses were able to get together and negotiated for a contract for garbage pick-up in downtown. That saved us about 30 percent and improved the service, too.”

In addition to providing a service to local restaurants, Chomp is owned by them and controlled by them. Sewell sold shares in the business to his fellow local restaurant owners, and Chomp’s board of directors is made up of those investors. Sewell is the board’s chair.

“Our position is we don’t have to pay national firms to come in and provide [an ordering and delivery] service at a high cost,” Sewell said. “We can recreate that same system, and treat it more as a utility in Iowa City. We can provide something that is low cost because there is no profit margin going to venture capitalists in Chicago or L.A.”

Chomp is currently hiring drivers, and Sewell said he expects the service to have “a soft rollout” next week. During that rollout customers will be able to order from four restaurants: 2 Dogs Pub, Wig and Pen East, Sparti’s Gyros and D.P. Dough.

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