Meet The Delivery Service That’s Trying to Make Takeout More Sustainable
Takeout is trashy. DeliverZero is on a mission to change that.
When you order takeout, a single meal may come in a few different plastic containers with silverware you’ll probably just toss and sauces on the side you may not even use. To make matters worse, it all comes wrapped up in a flimsy plastic bag and most of the stuff included is only useful for a few minutes before it joins the 82 million tons of container and packaging waste that Americans throw out every year.
But Adam Farbiarz, Lauren Sweeney, and Byron Sorrells are working to change that. With their company, DeliverZero, you can go online, choose from more than 100 restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and order just as you would from Seamless, GrubHub, or any other delivery service—without the waste that usually comes along with your order.
With DeliverZero, restaurants package up takeout meals in containers that are free of BPA and can be reused more than 1,000 times. Once they arrive at your door, you have six weeks to return the containers and can either drop them off at any of the partner restaurants or swap clean containers with your delivery driver the next time you order from DeliverZero.
“The biggest problem with reuse is that it’s a pain in the butt to return the stuff,” Co-founder Adam Farbiarz said. “So we designed this system to make that part of the process as easy as possible.”
When the service launched in November 2019, Farbiarz envisioned it as “a small neighborhood project” where customers would have a network of restaurants to order from that all shared these reusable containers. He intended to have one sushi spot, a Thai restaurant, and a few others to round out the options for customers, but he quickly found there was a huge community of customers and restaurants that wanted to get involved with a sustainable solution to takeout, so they expanded to Williamsburg and took off from there.
While DeliverZero’s main focus is on sustainability, they’ve found that their service also supports restaurants better than the alternatives. As some of the mainstay delivery apps have recently come under fire for treating couriers poorly and ripping money from restaurants, DeliverZero has made treating restaurants fairly a priority from the start. When restaurants sign up for the service, there’s no initial fee, containers are provided for free, and there are no restocking fees along the way. DeliverZero does take a commission on each order, but Farbiarz said they’re committed to staying well below the 20% fee cap that NYC imposed on delivery apps at the start of the pandemic.
“We’re partners with these restaurants. I’m in their kitchens daily, so we’re trying to do good by them,” Farbiarz said. “We're trying to be a good business up and down, not just environmentally but also socially.”
“We're trying to be a good business up and down, not just environmentally but also socially.”
DeliverZero has also helped restaurants bring in new customers, Sweeney, the company’s co-founder and chief marketing officer, said. Other delivery apps host thousands of restaurants in NYC alone, so customers are inundated with options. But the smaller number of restaurants on DeliverZero means that customers branch out from their old go-tos more often; Sweeney said that in a recent customer survey, nearly 86% of customers reported that they ordered from a restaurant they had never tried before.
“It’s a good way to discover some hidden gems,” Sweeney said. “As a customer myself, I’ve definitely found restaurants that I haven’t ordered from before in my own neighborhood and had some amazing food.”