The app is designed so that restaurants have the order ready and outside for handoff when customers drive up. (Courtesy Flybuy Technologies)

Startup FlyBuy aims to make any restaurant a ‘mobile’ drive-thru

Parking problems, long lines or an on-the-go lifestyle might be enough to dissuade a hungry consumer from going to a restaurant.

But FlyBuy, a startup based in Seattle, aims to give any restaurant the ability to be a “mobile” drive-thru, hoping to make it easier and faster to pick up food from any restaurant and change the takeout industry.

FlyBuy’s app lets consumers order and pay for coffee or food from local restaurants and notifies them when it’s ready. They then drive to the restaurant for a pickup from a waiting restaurant employee at curbside — all without leaving their vehicle.

The growing app, which launched in 2011, features 70 restaurants: 45 in the Seattle area, 15 in Portland, four in St. Louis and six just launched in Minneapolis. The app has 2,000 users.

“The whole premise is perfectly timing the handoff,” said CEO Will Merritt, who previously was CEO of Zooppa, a Seattle-based social network to connect creative talent and brands.

The app is designed so restaurant employees are there waiting 15 seconds before a user arrives. Restaurants receive orders, notify a user when they’re ready and track the users’ driving progress through GPS, which lets employees be at the curb as they pull up. Merritt said the app is saving customers an average 20 to 30 minutes.

Operations manager Nate Waters said the app can provide healthful and quick alternatives to fast food. He said it’s popular among people on the go, such as parents between a soccer game and music practice.

Merritt said restaurants are experiencing growth in takeout and declines in sit-in eating. FlyBuy is an alternative for restaurants that can’t afford or don’t have space for their own drive-thru. The app charges a 10 percent fee to restaurants, and allows users to tip.

Apps like GrubHub and Postmates offer delivery services from local restaurants, but FlyBuy isn’t looking to compete or replace these food-delivery apps. Rather it caters to people already on the go, or looking for takeout. It’s a cheaper option for customers because there’s no user fee. There’s no middleman so it gives restaurants better quality control over food, and charges a smaller fee than many delivery apps.

The company has caught the eye of industry leaders. Advisers to FlyBuy include former executives from GrubHub and Peach, and Schwartz Brothers Restaurants CEO Lindsey Schwartz.

The company is not yet profitable but has raised over $1 million to date from investors.

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