Boston-based Night Owl Deliveries has been delivering everything from convenience store items to filet mignon to college students and midnight oil-burning corporate executives alike since New Year’s Day 2005.
“We were frustrated by the lack of late-night delivery services, especially in a college town like Boston,” says co-founder Felix Bendersky. “We started thinking that we could deliver these things, and we started out delivering convenience-store goods, Then, word got around and the restaurants started calling.”
With just three cell phones and a fax machine, Bendersky, 30, established Night Owl with fellow Northeastern University grad, Nathaniel Milner, 26, and Bart Hoang, 32, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Boston. What started out as a late-night, universal room service has grown into an all-day provision delivery with more than 200 restaurant partners, including Pizzeria Uno, Cold Stone Creamery, Quiznos, Qdoba Mexican Grill, and T.G.I. Fridays, along with several convenience, liquor, and grocery stores.
Today Night Owl employs more than 100. Its first remote office opened in Chicago last fall, and the trio plans to open new locations in New York City and Atlanta by the end of the year.
The service charges its customer a discounted fee for meals, plus a $5 delivery fee. Night Owl also makes custom deliveries— electronics, computers, computer parts and cleaning supplies, charging a 20 percent mark-up.
“Students can put orders on their college cards. We do corporate lunches. Even if someone orders something from a restaurant that isn’t one of our partners, we’ll deliver it,” Bendersky says. “We might get orders from someone who wants lobster rolls from Legal Seafood, lo mein from P.F. Chang’s, and cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. And since we are on our way there, people say, ‘Pick me up a DVD, too.’ We will get anything and everything.”
One of Night Owl’s biggest customers, Bendersky says, is The Blue Man Group. The theatrical trio places orders before and after shows from four or five different Boston establishments, including sushi restaurant, Fugakyu, which makes about 65 deliveries a day through Night Owl.
The Cold Stone Creamery on Boston’s Brookline Avenue gave Night Owl its first shot and put the delivery service on the map. That location’s owner, Sandra Spezio, says Bendersky, Milner and Hoang researched the area well and worked with restaurateurs and college administrators to fine-tune their concept, which ultimately provided more business for the diverse number of restaurants in the area.
“We’ve been with them since the beginning and they are fantastic,” Spezio says. “To deliver ice cream is not the easiest thing to do, but when they deliver it, the ice cream is in the same form as it was when it left the store. They come on time, and we never have any customer complaints.”
Moreover, there are at least 18 colleges in the area, and Night Owl, Spezio says, has allowed Cold Stone to reach new markets.
“In the winter, the college kids don’t want to walk. They take the orders, fax it to us, and make the delivery. They are awesome guys … but the most important thing they provide is good customer service. They have really helped with the expansion of our business.”
Shannon Ebersold, manager of Boston’s Boylston Street’s Pizzeria Uno, echoes those sentiments.
“We started using them last summer, and we definitely get business we wouldn’t get without them,” Ebersold says. “We’re in a college town. We’re open until 1 a.m. during the week and 1:30 a.m. on the weekends. We don’t deliver, but we do a lot of takeout because of them, at least a couple of hundred dollars more in revenue a night.”