Tired of high delivery fees, the co-owners of a Portland restaurant made their own food order-and-pickup app and will test it out in Astoria.

Candy Yiu, and her husband, Akshay Dua, want to make food ordering and delivery less expensive for customers, delivery drivers and restaurant owners.

Food cart photo

Coffee OR Waffle owner Joshua Jensen plans to begin using the Kartbites app on Saturday.

The app, named Kartbites, will provide free online ordering and pickup. They aim for a 5% restaurant fee for delivery services.

“There’s a real need in Astoria to have an online ordering system because the big companies don’t come there, and the small carts in Astoria don’t want to pay the fees,” Dua said.

Coffee OR Waffle agreed to be the first food cart to test the app.

“I can definitely see a lot of convenience come out of it, especially being hands off as much as possible,” said Joshua Jensen, the food cart’s owner.

Jensen has been using his cellphone to call and text customers for pickup orders, and has to changes gloves or sanitize every time he picks up the phone.

“I think it’s definitely a niche that needs to be filled around here regardless of how many people, especially in the summertime,” Jensen said.

Yiu and Dua’s restaurant in Portland, Malka, remained open for delivery during the pandemic. But they said costs got too high when they had to pay for two phone lines, hire more staff and pay a 30% fee on every order using food delivery apps like DoorDash and Grubhub.

“I just found it really unreasonable, and most small businesses can’t afford that,” Yiu said.

They engineered Kartbites hoping it could provide the same function without the large fees.

They focused on food carts because they saw how they were struggling with social distancing and contactless service.

“Six feet of distance is actually really hard to achieve,” Yiu said about working in a food cart. “So it’s hard to hire more people.”

Food delivery through apps became the only source of business for some food carts and restaurants, so they had no way around the fees.

In July, Portland made it illegal for third-party food delivery services to charge restaurants more than 10% in commission fees for the duration of the pandemic.

Yiu and Dua hope their app can outlast the pandemic. They also hope to find a way to give back. They received an anonymous donation earlier this year at Malka to go toward providing free meals to people in need.

Yiu and Dua created a pay-it-forward program to use donation money to occasionally provide free meals at Malka for a few hours. They plan to integrate this program into the app, notifying customers that free food is available at different locations, or providing meal coverage to eligible users.

“There are a lot of people who want to donate, but they don’t necessarily want to donate to big organizations,” Yiu said. “And some people need help but don’t want to be identified. This way, nobody knows they’re in need of help but they can still get free food.”

Yiu and Dua already have received donations that are specifically for free meals through Kartbites.

“It’s all through the carts. We just want to bring the community together and help with the COVID situation,” Yiu said.

“I think we can do this,” Dua said.

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