KnockKnock, KC James Bates

James Bates, a tech entrepreneur in Kansas City, launched KnockKnock, KC last summer.

Two things prompted Kansas City tech entrepreneur James Bates to launch KnockKnock, KC, a restaurant delivery staffing service, last summer.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic had already created a massive need for more to-go food options, and although many restaurants were working tirelessly to recalibrate their menus and streamline their online ordering systems, they were still relying on third-party delivery services to get their food into diners’ hands.

Second, Bates’ son and daughter were both home from school, looking for jobs alongside countless other students, and they quickly became KnockKnock, KC’s first driver resources, reaching out to their networks to build a driver base.

The aim of KnockKnock, KC is to give independent restaurants in the Kansas City area access to a network of reliable delivery drivers for a fixed hourly rate. The model allows restaurants to cut ties with delivery apps – which charge as much as 30 percent of each sale – and still get orders out to customers. The restaurants can specify the uniform that the delivery people wear and the way each dish is packed, allowing them to remain in control of their product. Right now, more than 20 establishments, including Buffalo State Pizza Co., Crazy Good Eats, Martin City Brewing Co. (which recently became part-owner in the business), Old Shawnee Pizza, Pad Thai and Red Door Woodfired Grill, use KnockKnock, KC’s services, and the list continues to grow.

KnockKnock, KC is not a delivery app; it’s a delivery staffing service. What’s the difference? We don’t provide an online platform where customers can place an order; we provide the labor to the restaurant to execute a curbside carryout or delivery order. The restaurants usually have their own online ordering systems, and we just supply the workers to box up the orders and either run them [out to the cars] or deliver them to customers’ [front doors]. The restaurants can choose if they want to charge more for delivery to cover the cost of [the service] or not – that’s entirely up to them. The important part is that the restaurant is in control of its brand from start to finish with our service.

Would you consider partnering with a third-party delivery service to provide the delivery drivers? Yes. In fact, we are getting ready to partner with ChowNow, which I think is the best-in-class delivery system. We’ll be connected with ChowNow’s restaurant clients in the Kansas City market, which will allow us to introduce KnockKnock, KC and its delivery offering. Currently, ChowNow is also working with US Foods to be the online delivery app they recommend to their restaurant customers that are adding delivery for the first time, and we would be a part of that moving forward.

What else do you have planned for KnockKnock, KC? I recently sold 49 percent of KnockKnock, KC to the guys that own Martin City Brewing Co., and we’ll be working together to get this program to the next level; that includes creating an app for our delivery drivers to use, which is currently in production. It is important to us that we keep KnockKnock, KC a local company to help stimulate the economy here. Today, we know our competition is the big corporate third-party delivery companies, however, we also recognize that the second we step outside of Kansas City, we become what we are fighting against. So, we are developing a franchise model to help people who live in cities across the U.S. offer this service to benefit their own network of independent restaurants. [That way], we aren’t coming in from the outside and trying to sell [those restaurants] on how this will help their business.

What is the ultimate goal of KnockKnock, KC? At the end of the day, KnockKnock, KC is simply trying to be a lifeline for restaurants by fulfilling their curbside carryout and delivery orders in a cost-controlled and branded way today to allow them to grow their business tomorrow.

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