NEW TAMPA — When John and Carmela Brosnan moved to New Tampa from New York City two years ago, they were shocked at the lack of food delivery options.
John grew up in Staten Island and Carmela was raised in Brooklyn. They met and married and worked downtown in finance — and were across the street from the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11.
That tragedy shook them and shaped their perspective on life. After visiting friends in New Tampa, the Brosnans decided this was where they wanted their new life to be. They love New York, but they were ready for sunshine.
"People come here with hope," Carmela said.
They packed up and came down without jobs lined up, which was scary and gutsy. They have a son, a 4-year-old named after his father, and soon they all settled into life here. But they kept talking of their frustration over the lack of delivery service, something they had grown used to in New York.
And, over time, their talks became inspired. What if we started our own food delivery service?
Within a few months, their whispered idea became reality. They found investors and restaurants — Beef 'O' Brady's, Bennigan's, Biagio's II, Bruster's Ice Cream, Cafe Ole, China City, Ciccio & Tony's, Coffee Beanery, Juice Zone, Makanai Bento, Mazzola's Little Italy, New Shanghai, Polo's Italian Grill, Quiznos, Remington's Steakhouse, Saffron Indian Cuisine, Shane's Rib Shack, Subway, Sushi Tsu, The Italian Way, The Lime, Wasabi, Urban Culinary Cuisine and Westshore Pizza & CheeseSteaks.
They hired delivery drivers and did tons of marketing, and in March, it was a go. The business — which focused on New Tampa and Wesley Chapel — has been so successful so quickly that they are soon expanding to include the University of South Florida and Temple Terrace. At least a dozen more restaurants are joining mealcab.com and will be available in a few weeks.
"The response has been great," John said.
Here is how it works:
Customers can either call or place their orders online. Where they live will determine their restaurant choices, as the Brosnans are fierce about food quality. This is one of the reasons why Jason Pratt, general manager of the New Tampa Bennigan's, wanted to be a part of the company.
"They are so attentive to detail," Pratt said.
Customers can order from several restaurants, which comes in handy when family members want different things to eat. The order is taken and then dispatched to delivery drivers.
Unless the restaurants are very close to each other, the drivers will pick up the order from one restaurant and then put it in special insulated warmers and drive it directly to the customer's house. So, if you order from several places, you could have several drivers delivering to you. That is, again, because of food quality. They want to get it to you as soon as possible.
There is a $3.99 delivery charge per restaurant. And none of the menu items are marked up. They are the same prices as you would pay to pick it up yourself or to order inside.
The Brosnans are still running the business end of the company out of their New Tampa home. Both have taken orders on the phone and John has made some deliveries, when his drivers are swamped. Carmela is six months pregnant and — with the weather being so hot and working full time and taking care of their son — she has had meals delivered, though she's trying to force herself to cook more.
"We can't be our best customer," she said, laughing.
The biggest surprise to both of them is how much they enjoy this new life they've made.
"Every day is different," Carmela said. "I didn't realize what a fun business this could be."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4609.