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Cunningham Restaurant Group partners with Empower Delivery – Restaurant Hospitality

2 minutes, 44 seconds Read

Indianapolis-based Cunningham Restaurant Group announced Monday the creation of a new centralized delivery kitchen, CRG Delivery Kitchen, which offers a “best-of” menu with items from and inspired by several of its concepts, including Livery, Mesh, BRU Burger Bar, Union 50, Modita, and Tavern at the Point. The ghost kitchen-like service debuted in partnership with Empower Delivery and is the first time the restaurant group has ventured into the world of delivery.

Empower Delivery differentiates itself from third-party delivery software by helping restaurants to remove the middleman, offering support for native first-party ordering, loyalty, KDS integration, delivery management, and direct guest communication.

“Our exposure to delivery has mostly been the debacle of third-party services,” Carissa Newton, director of marketing for Cunningham Restaurant Group said. “We kept getting approached by all the third-party vendors, but the one thing that our CEO Mike Cunningham just came back to was, we can’t control that experience…. So in good conscience, I can’t partner with all these third-party delivery platforms because I don’t know that they’re going to deliver the same experience that I do to our guest.”

Newton added that while the company did finally sign up with DoorDash for its college markets, CRG was looking for a more solidified partnership, and thought that Empower was a good fit to serve as the software backbone as the company forayed into the delivery sector for the first time.

“CRG’s attention to detail, operations experience, and food are fantastic, and it is an honor to be part of serving that to their guests,” Meredith Sandland, CEO of Empower Delivery, said. “We are the software that’s making the magic happen behind the scenes, but CRG is really doing all the work cooking the food, operating their own fleet of gig working drivers, and running their vertically integrated centralized kitchen on our software.”

Orders placed through the CRG Delivery Kitchen will receive loyalty points in real time through the restaurant group’s robust loyalty program—something the company felt it could not do through third-party delivery due to the heavy commission fees. Sandland added that the vertical integration setup of the software allows CRG to have direct communication with customers when they have comments, questions or complaints, rather than relying on a middleman third-party service.

“We have more control in the drivers we’re recruiting, and we have direct communication with the drivers to make sure deliveries are occurring the way we want,” Newton said. “I think a lot of restaurants [working with third-party delivery] just suck it up and say, ‘well if we want delivery, we have to live with this.,’ and I just don’t think that’s true.”

As for the food end of CRG Delivery Kitchen, Newton said that while they are not trying to exactly replicate the dining-in or takeout experience from CRG’s restaurants, many of the available menu items are delivery-friendly versions of what customers might get in-store, like burgers, fries, and salads from BRU Burger Bar; empanadas, tacos, and nachos from Livery; and fried chicken and wings from Tavern at the Point. The delivery kitchen will also serve as a culinary test kitchen for the restaurant group as a whole, for guests to try out new menu items before they officially roll out.  

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

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