Food delivery is nothing new: we’ve all ordered many a late-night General Tso’s or drunken pizza right to our door.
This kind of convenience was unmatched until we saw the rise of national companies over recent years, like GrubHub, OrderUp, and most recently, UberEats.
And while these delivery services have set the bar in terms of making themselves accessible via online and phone app ordering, there’s a locally-based, independently-owned business that goes above and beyond what their modern competitors offer: Quickness RVA.
Quickness is bicycle-based delivery service that first started around 2010 with owner Frank Bucalo. Famously, he would chill at Strange Matter near campus between bike-runs waiting for orders to come in. (If that’s not Richmond as hell, I don’t know what it is)
Dedicated to his business, he spent the first two years growing and expanding Quickness by handling management, delivery, and developing relationships with clients. While he now runs the business out of New York, his years of hard work paid off and made Quickness what it is today: a tight-knit, efficient, and personal local company.
Some might think that a car might work better for delivery than a bike, but Quickness casts those assumptions away immediately with their delivery times and committed staff. These guys aren’t bumbling on the sidewalks – they’re going from the West End to the East in 10 minutes flat.
“I’ve been biking all my life,” said Jess Izen, Director of Sales at Quickness RVA. Izen’s been working with the company for about two years and quickly learned it was far different from other bike-delivery services during their first shift.
“My first shift ever, I actually took the cargo bike, from at the time Olio in the Fan, now Branch & Vine, all the way down to 901 East Byrd with a few hundred dollar catering room. I mean it’s a hard job, you’re working for a number of hours on your bike, you’re playing with death in the traffic and you’re also putting a lot of wear on your bike and your body,” they said. “But I think, for the degree of independence and flexibility, you’re where you wanna be, you’re coordinating with each other, positioning yourself with this map in your head, it’s less regimented. That was what was most striking to me my first shift, it was a breath of fresh air, honesty.”
When Izen began to notice these out-of-town corporate behemoths creeping up, the company knew that Quickness would be able to remain competitive but also that some changes would need to be made.
They invested resources in a website that allows their customers to have the same ordering structure than their competitors. They also invested in fully-integrated dispatch apps for their riders to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
But, for Quickness, while fast delivery times and general efficiency is extremely important, an equally important part of the company’s values is having quality personal relationships across the board – something competitors aren’t exactly known for.
For Izen, it gives them an added edge.
“I’m in very direct communication with restaurants. They have my phone number, they can text me, I can give them an answer about what’s going on,” said Izen. “We do daily retrospectives, we notice weird patterns in orders, riders can log issues at all times… Part of the job is learning how to navigate that with grace.”
Meal delivery isn’t the only thing Quickness does, too. Catering is also a significant part of their business, with about five to 10 large orders a week – all distributed in a timely manner on their cargo bikes. The Quickness has been partners with local Church Hill restaurant Alamo BBQ for years – they have been approached by some of these newer companies but have no plans to be switching over.
“It’s always worked really smooth with them,” said Ebony Pageas, Catering Manager at Alamo BBQ. “They’re good, professional people. I’ve never had a problem with them. They’re great, they’re fast, all of your food stays in tact, they’re very careful with things. I love them”
Pageas noted the company’s commitment rain, snow or shine, chill or heat – Quickness, much like mail carriers, are always there.
“They’re always on it. I can’t compare them to other delivery services we have because there’s no one like Quickness,” she said. “They make sure the food gets there fast, hot, everything.”
That Quickness is constantly maintaining these relationships with their restaurants via direct and personal communication isn’t something these larger companies can offer on a larger scale, according to Izen. They believe the local company can more efficiently maintain quality control by addressing any issues face-to-face. And, because of these tight relationships, their riders can also depend on quality shift meals from the restaurants they service – if you’ve ever done service work, you know how important that is.
Because Quickness is rooted in the community so deeply, the nature of the company allows for a workforce that cares about the work they do because they know they’re part of a team. While you may be great at your job and love delivering pizza for a national chain, the environment is different – many would say it’s less personal (among other things).
On the customer side, seeing Quickness riders zoom around the city gives a sense of interconnectedness. Not to mention, it’s way more environmentally friendly.
“I’ve heard us be referred to as connective tissue. We’re connecting business to customers but also we’re there on the streets, interacting with people who are around. We’re a rhythm of people’s days to see us going by,” they said. “I wouldn’t want to live in a city where it’s really only cars going by. It’s too impersonal. I would hope that Richmond wants to keep some of the knit-togetherness.”
And if all of this wasn’t enough to set Quickness apart from others, they make a concerted effort to maintain a diverse staff. Izen understands the importance of hiring individuals that often face hardships in employment prospects because of who they are.
“We have a lot more women and non-binary people, we also have a lot more people of color working for Quickness than we have over the years,” said Izen. “We think it’s awesome that we’re starting to reflect the city that we live in more and we always encourage more diverse riders to apply.”
Even if larger companies have the power to maintain some level of popularity in the area and make a hefty profit, Quickness shows they’re dedicated to values that support the community and their staff, not just making a couple bucks by cutting corners. And they hope people notice. They try and show local businesses can be equally competitive and effective. Snag some speedy, local comfort food at their website here and view all the restaurants they partner with here.