WATERVILLE — Go to any college campus in America at any time, and more likely than not you’ll see a common occurrence: takeout being delivered. Whether it’s pizza or Chinese food, chicken wings or sandwiches, college campuses have long been hotspots for takeout food deliveries for hungry students at all hours of the day.

But for smaller, local restaurants, it’s often difficult to compete with national chains. To address what he saw as a market inefficiency, a Colby College student found a way not only to bring takeout food from Waterville restaurants to the campus, but to do it seamlessly online. All it took was an existing business plan and a few drivers.

Michael Logan, a senior at Colby College from Washington, D.C., is the director of MayflowerEats. Delivery is only one aspect of what MayflowerEats does, Logan said. The business also helps restaurants with online ordering, something that local “mom and pop” shops throughout the region may not have.

“We’re trying to make it really easy to connect to your restaurant,” Logan said.

Modeled after businesses such UberEats and Postmates — which are both online ordering services that deliver food from a swath of restaurants — MayflowerEats is a subsidiary of a company called UniDel, an intercollegiate delivery service started by two students at Middlebury College in Vermont. Logan met the founders of UniDel over the summer while doing an internship in Boston, he said, and the idea seemed like a natural fit at Colby.

“Obviously to me there was a demand,” Logan said in Cotter Union, just above the Joseph Family Spa on Tuesday. “I wanted to make it easy for the Colby community and hopefully the area.”

While the Middlebury students have handled the web design for the company, Logan said he focuses more on the economics of running a business, although he’s in constant contact with his Middlebury counterparts.

The UniDel business on the Vermont campus is known as GrilleMe and delivers only from the on-campus restaurant called The Grille. MayflowerEats is working with three local restaurants in Waterville: the Waterville House of Pizza, Mirayaku and Pizza Degree. MayflowerEats delivers straight to a student’s dorm door, so he or she doesn’t even need to leave the room.

According to the Middlebury student newspaper, UniDel is working to expand to other colleges such as Amherst College in Massachusetts; Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut; and Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virgina.

“It’s already an established demand,” Logan said.

MayflowerEats has evolved since it launched in September. Initially, the business was delivering food only from the Joseph Family Spa, which is a campus meeting space that also has a snack bar. The business had to have a person sitting at the Spa, waiting for orders to come in, then manually place them on a computer, then have another person deliver the food. They no longer deliver from Joseph Family Spa.

Now, everything is automated online. A student just has to go to the website and place an order that then goes directly to the restaurant. No cash is exchanged. Credit card information goes through a third-party provider, such as PayPal, so a student doesn’t have to read a card number over the phone.

Right now, MayflowerEats delivers only to the Colby campus, but Logan hopes to expand the business to serve the entire city of Waterville.

“It’s a seamless, fast process,” he said.

THE COLBY PIE

From a student’s perspective, Logan said it’s easy to see why MayflowerEats was necessary. Hungry college students are always on the hunt for the best deals when it comes to food. But for the three participating restaurants, he said the attraction is bigger.

“Everyone wants a piece of the Colby pie,” he said.

So far, Logan said, he’s batting a thousand. He’s reached out to only three restaurants about delivery, and all three were quick to sign on.

How the system works is simple. A student goes onto the MayflowerEats website and places an order from any or all of the restaurants. No matter how varied the orders or from which restaurants, all deliveries likely arrive within half an hour.

Many times college students are ordering in large groups, Logan said, and that may mean some orders arrive later than others. Students pay for the food and cost of delivery.

Ordering online takes away a chance for error, Logan said. A person ordering by phone has to know the menu or have it front of them. Even then there may be a discrepancy between that person’s expectations and what the restaurants prepare. For example, expectations on ingredients can vary. If a person orders a hamburger over the phone and doesn’t specify what they want on it, they may end up with toppings they don’t want.

“On our site, here’s what’s assumed and what it’s going to cost,” he said. “It’s fully transparent and eliminates errors on the restaurant side.”

MayflowerEats has 15 employees, down from the 25 when they were just delivering from the Spa. That means the business has to work harder to find people who want to make deliveries, Logan said.

Word of MayflowerEats spreads mostly through poster campaigns around campus and through Facebook pages. Logan said the business plans to expand its social media campaigns going forward.

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Logan hopes to add more restaurants with as much variety as possible to the MayflowerEats network. The sales pitch is simple and straightforward: By signing up, a restaurant is getting access to Colby. The online aspect appeals to students, who otherwise might not want to call in and place an order.

“This makes it easy to order and know what you’re getting,” he said.

Kate Carlisle, communications director at Colby, said Colby supports student entrepreneurship and engagement with local businesses.

“We know that student-led businesses can contribute to the growth of the Waterville community, and a new entrepreneurial initiative in our innovative DavisConnects program is already underway,” she said.

DavisConnects is a college initiative that provides funding and support for every student to spend time abroad, have access to internships and research opportunities, and become entrepreneurs.

Garvan Donegan, an economic development specialist for the Central Maine Growth Council, a public-private collaborative group based in Waterville, said he was thrilled to see the growth and innovation MayflowerEats represents. He expects it to do well once it covers the rest of the city.

“I think this is spectacular,” Donegan said.

Waterville is poised to see an upswing in “incubators and innovation centers” that may benefit the downtown, Donegan said. Such spaces would provide a launchpad for students and others to build on the city’s core industries and create high tech businesses and jobs and boost the economy. Such spaces allow start-ups such as MayflowerEats to connect with other businesses or innovators, which is ultimately how venture capital is attracted. Once that happens, he said, the city can position itself to continue to attract the attention of outside companies and investments.

“It begins with a culture of driving creation,” Donegan said. “I think this gentleman’s project is great.”

Logan, who will be moving to San Francisco at the end of this coming summer, said he expects to eventually hand the business off and see it continue to grow. Everything is still day-to-day, he said, but the goal is to keep adding options for Colby students and the people of Waterville.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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