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Local food delivery platform gains footing in the Upper Valley

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 5:18 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2021 at 5:41 AM EDT
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HANOVER, N.H. (WCAX) - A new delivery system for restaurants in Hanover is taking on the tech giants like Doordash and Uber Eats, and the cooperative venture is designed to keep money in local communities.

As the country continues to come back from COVID, some trends that began during the pandemic could stick around for a while and restaurants say that includes how people order food.

“There has been a big shift in market share and I think it may be permanent,” said John Pepper, who co-founded the Boloco chain of restaurants when he was at Dartmouth’s Tuck Business School. Now, he’s on to a new venture. “We can’t afford as a local community to have dollars, 30% or our dollars, leaving this community.”

Teaming up with Lou’s restaurant across Main Street, they’ve launched a new shared delivery service that’s an online alternative to popular apps like Doordash or Grubhub. “The good news is that technology that is available off the shelf has caught up very quickly,” Pepper said.

Chris Acker is the executive director of the Upper Valley Eaters and Retail Consumer Cooperative Society, or U.V.E.R, a name with obvious similarities to the popular ride service turned delivery app. “We are not funded by Silicon Valley, we don’t have millions in the bank. In fact, it is a very, very small operation, but we are really hoping to grow in a sustainable way,” Acker said.

Like the tech giants, U.V.E.R charges a delivery fee to consumers, but there is not an additional cut off the top to the corporation. One challenge will be letting people know the website exists. “It’s one degree of separation around here, so once word gets out about something, it usually spreads pretty quick,” Acker said.

Tom Fortmuller of Hartford changed his eating habits during the pandemic and says he’s happy to pay a little bit more if the money stays in the community. “I like to support the local as opposed to large corporations,” he said.

And in this case, it’s a cooperative of local businesses coming together with a shared goal. “I feel like COVID has brought a lot of us together to collaborate and bring the best of what we have to offer together and U.V.E.R. is just an example,” Pepper said.

In the future, the website will include area farms as well as local retail stores. It’s the buy local cooperative movement going digital in a post-pandemic world.

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