Although the market for third-party delivery platforms is saturated these days, financial entrepreneur Ashley Loveless Cunningham thought she had something new to offer the tech delivery space: business literacy. Cunningham created the Houston-based, food delivery app ChewTyme, which just launched at the end of 2023 as a fee-free platform aimed at empowering and educating minority business owners.
So far, the app is in beta mode with 14 small restaurant owners on the platform, who — in exchange for paying a 17% commission fee — are able to utilize ChewTyme’s last mile delivery services, as well as Cunningham’s Business Credit University, which provides guidelines and guidance for entrepreneurs to build good business credit. The purpose, Cunningham said, is to help Black and other minority restaurant owners get a leg up in the oftentimes challenging and whitewashed world of business ownership.
“What I noticed is during COVID, a lot of restaurant owners were closing our doors… because they just didn’t have the capital to withstand their doors being closed, and then business drops and they don’t have funding for payroll,” she said. “And all of that goes back. To having good business credit…. That is how the app came about—I started the app… as a solid foundation for business owners to actually scale and stay in the game.”
Cunningham has been in the financial sector for almost 18 years developing a credit repair business for both individuals and businesses. She has taught financial literacy from everyone from students to adult business owners. Although Cunningham does not have a background in restaurants or foodservice technology, she came up with the idea of ChewTyme from a consumer’s perspective as a frequent user of food delivery apps.
ChewTyme was created specifically with small restaurant owners in mind who are having trouble scaling their businesses. The business university aspect of the app has a virtual assistant that can help business owners go through a step-by-step process to build their business credit and gives advice like building a modern website, which allows your business to be more visible (and viable) to potential lenders. Additionally, ChewTyme offers mentorship and community building opportunities for members.
“All of these resources are free of charge, when they’d normally be a $5,000 fee, and it gives them the opportunity to get their business credit score up so they can get funding,” Cunnigham said.
Instead, ChewTyme makes its revenue from the 17% commission fees—which are still below market rate of 20% and up from national third-party delivery platforms. On the consumer end, ChewTyme charges a flat $4.95 delivery fee. After operators spend two years on the app, Cunningham will begin charging them $79 a month in commission fees, which is right around the time that (given the platform’s financial literacy resources), that business owner members should be more fiscally secure.
Most of the small group of restaurants currently on the platform are local to Houston, including a pizzeria and a New Orleans-style creole kitchen.
“I was talking to one of the restaurant owners the other day who said…the app has been amazing for her because she is saving a lot of money on commission fees and as a result she’s able to make more money from delivery,” Cunningham said.
Moving forward, she would like to expand the ChewTyme app as it moves out of the initial beta testing phase, and expand out of state in the next six to 12 months. Already, Cunnigham said she has spoken with interested parties in Dallas and Austin, as well as Mobile, Ala., New York City, and even as far away as Ghana.
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