Some restaurants, grocers see deliveries surge during hurricane threat

    Some Baton Rouge restaurants and grocery stores that remained open Wednesday night saw a surge in deliveries through third-party apps like Waitr—especially to local hotels, which were filled to 100% capacity with guests who evacuated from Hurricane Laura.

    As of this afternoon’s deadline, Waitr spokesman Dean Turcol could not provide data showing how many drivers Waitr dispatched last night, how many orders were made or where the majority of them were delivered. Waitr deliveries are closed in Lake Charles, while Baton Rouge and Lafayette remain open for service.

    However, anecdotal evidence suggests a busy Wednesday night, particularly for a smattering of local businesses in the LSU area and within close proximity to downtown hotels.

    “Our sales definitely increased yesterday,” says Matherne’s owner Tony Matherne, referencing both his Nicholson Gateway and downtown grocery stores. “There weren’t any large orders; the quantity of orders was just much higher. We had four times our normal amount.”

    Matherne says several of the Waitr shoppers told him they were bringing the grocery bags—many of which were stuffed with “snacks, water bottles and other hurricane prep essentials”—to nearby hotels.

    Similarly, Red Zeppelin observed a 30% uptick in delivery sales Wednesday, says owner Ray VanMerrienboer, who noticed many Lake Charles diners coming into the Perkins Road pizzeria throughout the day for lunch and dinner, as well. In-person orders also surged at The Jambalaya Shoppe’s location on Acadian Thruway, where sales were 15% above a typical Wednesday.

    “I can’t even say the surge was in deliveries, just in business,” says owner Lou Fives, adding that his downtown Jambalaya Shoppe location—which is closed today—normally closes at 2 p.m. anyway and wasn’t able to capture the hotel crowd. “We plan to reopen the downtown store tomorrow.”

    Dustin Loveless, general manager of the Walk-On’s on Burbank Drive, says he’s preparing for an uptick in delivery demand tonight that will likely spike at 9 p.m. Albasha owner Kamal Salameh says he’s willing to expand delivery services to hotels today, especially to those also within the College Drive/Corporate Boulevard corridor. 

    “If there aren’t as many drivers tonight due to bad weather and people not wanting to be on the road, we’re willing to deliver directly to [hotels],” Salameh says. “They’re just a couple of blocks away, and these are tough times.”