The owner of a local food delivery service says he has been priced out of the market by national companies, and a lawsuit is all that’s left between the competitors.
Randy Ruggeri closed QuikDine.com LLC on Jan. 4, citing increased competition from DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub and Postmates Inc.
“You have four multimillion-dollar companies that came into Springfield overnight,” he said. “This town can’t sustain six delivery companies.”
While Ruggeri has been in business since 2000, the new food delivery services began entering the market in late 2017.
Ruggeri filed a civil lawsuit in November 2018 against DoorDash Inc. seeking injunctive relief and $75,000 in the Greene County Circuit Court for unfair competition.
In the suit, Ruggeri alleges DoorDash created “Google business power listings” for Springfield restaurants, sometimes “without approval or consent of the designated restaurant and without any authority to advertise on behalf of a particular restaurant.”
On Dec. 5, San Francisco-based DoorDash requested the case move to federal court, citing the two companies’ headquarters operating in different states, according to Missouri district court filings.
“Unfortunately, a couple of them are doing things businesswise that are questionable,” Ruggeri said, describing DoorDash’s Google listings as “guerrilla marketing.”
“It’s forcing the restaurant to do business with them,” he added. “It’s extremely misleading and deceiving not only in the market share but to the customers and the restaurants.”
In the court case, DoorDash most recently filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice on Jan. 11. Ruggeri said the company has since sent a settlement request letter to Ruggeri’s attorney, dated Jan. 22.
In the motion to dismiss, DoorDash’s lawyer Timothy West of Kansas City based-Berkowitz Oliver LLP said two essential elements of QuikDine’s claim, deceptive representations and commercial detriment, do not hold up.
“The absence of sufficient factual allegations regarding these elements means that QuikDine’s unfair competition claims fails,” West wrote in the motion. “Second, QuikDine’s free-standing claim for injunctive relief fails because injunctive relief is a remedy, not a cause of action.”
Ruggeri previously told Springfield Business Journal QuikDine typically generated $300,000 in annual sales, but he expected 2018 to be significantly lower. He said he has yet to tally the final year’s financial records.
Ruggeri opened the company in December 2000 and had contracts with 28 local restaurants, including Nonna’s Italian Cafe, Dublin’s Pass and Purple Burrito Mexican Grill.
At the time of the closure, QuikDine employed five drivers, down from its peak of 12.
“We saw a pretty steep decline pretty much immediately,” Ruggeri said of sales once DoorDash entered the marketplace.
Though QuikDine may no longer operate, one component could live on.
Ruggeri said he’s been approached to sell QuikDine.com’s software rights to a husband and wife he declined to identify.
“I was kind of excited when they showed some interest,” he said, noting a sale agreement is in process. “It’s kind of a rebirth of QuikDine, in a way, in a town nearby.”
Ruggeri said he’d help the couple with set up and consulting once the contract is finalized.
“That was kind of a godsend for me,” he said.
While one local delivery service has shuttered, Flash Delivery LLC/Lightning Delivery owner Jason Green said his company will remain in the local marketplace.
“The thing is – how do you compete with someone who has unlimited resources?” Green said. “Our goal is to strive at everything that they’re weak at.”
One area where Green thinks his business excels is with delivery bags.
“We have the best bags in the industry,” he said. “We go above that by adding heaters to keep the food at 140 degrees.”
Green started the business in 2010 with his wife, and Lightning Delivery has over 20 restaurants in Ozark, Springfield and Nixa as partners under contract.
He said Lightning Delivery has a similar business model to DoorDash by use of contractors using nonpartner restaurants, but it’s less aggressive.
In regard to DoorDash’s listings of certain restaurants on Google and its own website, Green said a company can use a logo until the owner requests them to stop, and menus are open to public use. He doesn’t think Ruggeri’s case against DoorDash will stand.
“There’s nothing about what DoorDash is doing that is illegal. It’s maybe not the best tactic,” Green said. “I wish him the best.”
Ruggeri and Green have a history in court. About six years ago, they were involved in a lawsuit when Ruggeri purchased the domain name to LightningDelivery.com and used it to redirect visitors to Quikdine’s website. In 2015, a third-party arbitrator awarded the domain to Lightning Delivery, and Ruggeri paid Green $80,000 in a separate settlement agreement for trademark infringement, according to past Springfield Business Journal coverage.
In January 2018, Ruggeri filed a second lawsuit against Green, Lightning Delivery and two other parties for five counts, including defamation and commercial disparagement, contract interference and unfair competition.
The case remains open, according to Missouri court records.
While the new competition may cut into his bottom line, Green doesn’t have any delusions of grandeur.
“At the end of the day, we’re not doing this to get rich,” Green said, noting last year’s revenue was roughly $125,000, about half the level from two years ago. “We put food on our table by putting food on other people’s tables.”
As part of the $168 million bond issue voters approved in April 2019, Springfield Public Schools is developing an early childhood center near Carver Middle School.
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