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Caviar: 1) fabulous food and 2) a FREE delivery from Chicago restaurants

Caviar offers Chicagoans free food delivery
Caviar offers Chicagoans free food delivery
Caviar Delivery

Hey, it’s National Caviar Day this Friday. Normally I wouldn’t get too excited about that since I’ve never been a huge fan. But the Packing House is celebrating with special dishes. And since I just tasted some really good food there the other day, I am a new believer in the abilities of Executive Chef Amanda Barnes.

To celebrate caviar’s special day Packing House is making it approachable for the man and woman on the street. Check out their Fried Smashed Fingerling Potatoes with Caviar Crème Fraiche ($13), or their Caviar Scrambled Eggs ($18) served with chives ($5 for optional truffle) for brunch.

Our next caviar item relates to a service. We Chicagoans are just plain spoiled about getting our food delivered. I lived in Cleveland for many years, and there was exactly one meal you could get delivered – pizza. And that, only if you ordered it from the right place. Not even Chinese! Imagine!

So, there’s a new Chicago food delivery service called Caviar, presumably to reflect the fact that it delivers only food from high-quality, top-rated restaurant meals. But the killer piece for now is that in Chicago, Caviar deliveries are FREE for the immediate future, says founder Jason Wang. [THIS JUST IN from the company. Chicago is no longer participating in the "free for immediate future: promotion. Sigh. But at least you can still get your first delivery free.]

After your first free delivery, their regular fee is $9.99 per delivery for any number of menu items. Too bad the free-for-a-long-time offer died on the vine. My story in the next paragraph explains why it might have worked.

I once did a story on a then-little-known express bus service between cities in the Midwest. It was called Megabus, and I regularly traveled between Cleveland and Chicago for the price of exactly one dollar ($1). Yep. And that’s how Megabus grew to the incredible level of popularity it now enjoys – today there are still $1 fares available, but you can also pay as much as $90 for traveling the day before Thanksgiving if you haven’t booked weeks in advance – and all the many cities it now travels between. Meanwhile, hundreds of us had already become totally addicted to the service.

So free or dirt cheap is a proven idea for growing a base of loyal customers.

There are, of course, several other delivery services out there. Wang says Caviar differentiates itself with the following features.

Caviar delivery distinguishing features:

  • Hi-res photos of every menu item they deliver. Doesn’t just the picture sometimes sell you on an item?
  • Real-time GPS delivery tracking (Caviar can tell you exactly where your driver is)
  • Hire and compensate their own drivers (most others count on the restaurant to do that part). Tips for drivers are automatically included in your cost.
  • Hire and compensate taste testers and/or feature only restaurants with a minimum 4-star rating on Yelp. This can save a hungry diner a lot of research time.
  • Allows ordering up to six days ahead.
  • You first select your desired 1-hour delivery window, which saves valuable time sifting through restaurants that are not available in the desired time frame. The site automatically darkens the restaurant window and marks it CLOSED outside its business hours. This could be confusing to some users; on Yelp when they use CLOSED it means the restaurant is out of business.

I notice that a number of the high-quality restaurants on Caviar’s website say “24 hour notice required,” which makes sense from a quality and availability standpoint. Below are a few points about the following delivery services:

Grub Hub
Can filter by things like “the best,” “the closest,” etc. When you filter using “the best” you’ll see GrubHub customer ratings as well as Yelp’s cumulative ratings.
Minimum order requirements vary.
Delivery fees vary.

DiningIn.com
Can filter by cuisine or meal type. But if you pick breakfast, the earliest you may be able to get a delivery is 10am.
They have a search function for a specific restaurant (not working as of this writing)
$50 minimum for breakfast/lunch; $15 minimum order from 1pm on (some restaurants higher)

Seamless.com
Seamless is not a delivery service but rather an ordering service that passes along the restaurant’s own varying delivery fees.
Can filer by cuisine or meal type. Ratings are based on Seamless customers’ reviews.
They give you an estimate of how long delivery will take.
You can pre-order.
Minimums for each restaurant only appear when you start ordering.

DeliveryWow
Can filter by cuisine type.
Can pre-order.
$15 minimum order
Delivery fees vary: $5.99 is typical.
They have a rewards program, but you have to spend a minimum of about $2500 before it kicks in.

I don’t know how successfully you’ve used other services but, heck, what have you got to lose by trying Caviar for free? I'll definitely test it out soon.