Waitr waiting for regulators to clear way for alcohol deliveries

Waitr, the Lake Charles-based food delivery service that has expanded to several states since launching about two years ago, is ready to add alcohol delivery to its service once regulators give it the green light.

Waitr founder and CEO Chris Meaux says the company has developed the technology needed to add alcohol delivery to its app, through which customers order food from local restaurants for delivery by Waitr drivers.

“Everything is built and ready to go,” he says. “Now we’re trying to work with the regulating authorities … so we can do it legally.”

Several companies have thrived in the online- and phone-based alcohol delivery market nationally. Drizly, a Boston-based e-commerce company, offers alcohol delivery to 70 U.S. cities, including New Orleans. Pizza Hut recently announced it would roll out a pilot program to add beer and wine sales for delivery, and companies like DoorDash and Postmates offer it as well.

Meaux says Waitr hopes to pair alcohol delivery more seamlessly with its already-established dining platform. Restaurants could bump their ticket prices up, customers would have more choices and, theoretically, the service could take some would-be drunk drivers off the road, he says.  

Waitr is working with state regulators in Louisiana and Texas to determine if it can offer the service under the existing permits offered. If not, the company may have to go through the legislative process or work with the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control in Louisiana to obtain a new type of permit. Meaux says he doesn’t have a timeline for adding alcohol delivery yet.  

The service would have several layers of verification to ensure the people ordering alcohol are of age, including having drivers scan the customers’ identification. The only drivers who could deliver alcohol would be certified, Meaux says.

Baton Rouge would likely be one of the first cities to see the new service. Since launching in late 2015, the company has expanded to Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. While UberEats, another food delivery service from the ride-hailing giant, has recently launched in Baton Rouge, Meaux says business has still been growing here.  

“Baton Rouge is one of our strongest cities,” he says, noting Waitr has even seen a bump in business since UberEats launched. “It continues to grow significantly.”

Within the first two months of 2018, Meaux says Waitr will begin servicing Columbus, Georgia, making it the seventh state where the company operates. And by the end of next year, the company hopes to roll out a dine-in feature that allows customers to order, request the check and split payments through the Waitr app at sit-down restaurants. Meaux says he’s not trying to eliminate servers, who will still be needed to bring food and attend to customers, but customers would be able to use their existing Waitr apps at certain restaurants.

Waitr was originally designed as a dine-in ordering platform, Meaux says, but the company pivoted to delivery because of “friction” with the initial concept. Now that he has a large customer base, Meaux says he’s ready to bring the idea back.

“We have some new things we’re working on in 2018,” he says. “We believe there’s a big opp for dine-in.”

—Sam Karlin

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