There are Waiters on Wheels in San Francisco, Food by Phone in Ann Arbor, Mich., Mobile Menu in Bucks County, Pa. and now, Restaurants 2 You in Annapolis, as the restaurant to home food delivery service craze arrives.
Instead of handing over pizza, the delivery guy at the door whips out Chinese roast duck, say, or maybe stuffed flounder Florentine and a little linguine with clam sauce.
Don Parker, of Annapolis, thought it was a brilliant idea when he first ran across it on a business trip to San Francisco last November. He brought the concept east with him, sold the computer communication equipment business he had run for 15 years and started a delivery service of his own.
"If you're not doing your own cooking, you can't eat pizza all the time," said the former owner of Commtex, a Crofton firm.
Restaurants 2 You lets customers eat restaurant meals in the comfort of their own dining rooms, said Mr. Parker, who has hooked up with 11 Annapolis area restaurants.
Customers can order from a master menu and pay the restaurant's regular price, plus a $3.50 delivery charge for orders from up to two restaurants. The fee goes to $5.50 on orders from three or more restaurants, but orders of more than $50 are delivered free.
Delivery times for lunch or dinner range from 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the preparation time at a given restaurant.
Since Mr. Parker and partner, Dorothy Neiman, started the service in June, they say they've had no shortage of customers. On a busy night, they handle 40 to 50 orders in a delivery area that covers Annapolis, Arnold, Severna Park, Riva, Crofton, Millersville, Edgewater, Davidsonville and Crownsville.
"A good percentage of our business comes from folks who would like us to stop at two restaurants," Mr. Parker explained. "With a dual income couple, when he and she come home too late and they're too tired to cook, one wants Italian and one wants seafood. People love to read menus. They can sit down with a multi-menu and go from cuisine to cuisine to cuisine until they find something that strikes their fancy."
The service also has been popular with retirees and mothers of young children, who have admitted to drives that it has been years since they've "been able to eat great restaurant food," Mr. Parker said.
The 11 restaurants -- all of which have their full menus printed in Restaurants 2 You's master menu -- include bagels and..., Cafe Riva, Court of Shanghai, Donatelli's, India Palace, Northwoods, Bridge View Restaurant, Casa Grande, Giolitti Delicatessen, Papazee's and The Rustic Inn.
Mr. Parker spent two months starting the service, selling restaurant owners on the unusual idea, distributing 75,000 master menus through the Penny Saver, setting up his own computerized headquarters off West Street and hiring an office staff and drivers.
His computer expertise came in handy. He outfitted each member restaurant with its own computer, modem and printer. When a customer calls Restaurants 2 You, a representative types the order into a computer form, then transfers it, via phone link, to the restaurant's computer.
When a driver arrives at a restaurant, he's given a copy of the order containing the customer's name and address.
Mr. Parker's office staff operates an extension of each restaurant's serving staff. The operators must know all of the restaurants' menus and daily specials.
Mr. Parker said he hopes to expand his business to meet what he expects will be growing appetites for restaurant deliveries by adding new restaurants. He said he has four or five new ones lined up for September.