Home Delivery Services, A Business That Captivates Cubans
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 25 April 2017 — The colorful vehicle
takes off when the traffic light turns green, leaving the smell of
freshly baked pizza in its wake. It is one of the visible signs that
private businesses are succeeding in a country where ordering food from
home was a chimera until recently.
In the days of Uber Eats and Amazon, Cuban entrepreneurs use more
traditional methods. Paper ads pasted in public areas, telephone numbers
along with photos of delicious dishes, and classifieds on digital sites
are part of the strategies of the home delivery business, known on the
island by the English word: delivery.
“We started with two motorcycles and we already have five,” says
Yosniel, an employee in a business in Havana’s Vibora neighborhood that
offers Chinese food to order. “At the beginning we received few calls a
day, but since more people heard about our offers, the phone does not
stop ringing,” he adds.
AlaMesa, the most complete directory of food services on the island, has
so far registered around 930 restaurants, bars, pizzerias and ice cream
parlors throughout the country. In Havana, of 458 food retail businesses
that appear, at least 66 offer the possibility of home delivery.
Mamma Mia is one of them. In a beautiful house on 23rd street you can
eat Italian-style pizzas and they also prepare the delivery orders for
customers from several nearby districts. “When I don’t feel like going
out, I phone and have it delivered,” says Victor Manuel Manuel, a
dedicated customer of the place and resident of the area.
The diner believes that domestic consumers are becoming more and more
enthusiastic about the possibility of ordering from afar. “People are
wary if they can’t preview the food they are going to buy, but when the
quality of a place has been proven, that distrust diminishes,” he says.
Víctor Manuel works with two friends in an interior design business on
his own. “Sometimes we have to spend hours and hours doing drawings or
designing on the computer, so having the option of having the food at
the door makes the job much easier,” he says.
At the end of January of this year, 539,952 Cubans were self-employed,
of whom 59,368 were engaged in the preparation or sale of food. Most in
small cafes or very simple places, but sophistication and glamor also
has a presence in the sector.
Home deliveries are a private sector fiefdom and for decades very few
state-owned restaurants offered such a possibility. The dispatcher who
arrived on a motorbike with the pizza in his hand was a “movie thing”
for several generations of Cubans, until in 2008 when the opportunities
for self-employment were expanded.
Liset and her husband Esteban have a service delivering sushi to
order. This April is two years since they began to bring their exotic
dishes to the customers’ homes. “We have offers of a roll that includes
eight portions accompanied by wasabi, ginger and Japanese soy sauce, and
also comes with vegetables,” the owner tells 14ymedio.
After living for five years in Costa Rica, the couple has returned to
live on the Island and enters a new terrain. “Foreign businessmen based
in the country, diplomats and Cubans who want to try new flavors,” says
Esteban, describing his growing clientele.
“The main way we distribute our menu is the digital classified sites,
but we also have a small brochure with prices and a ‘call at any time
and we’ll take care of you’ advertisement. The text warns that for
‘larger orders for more than 20 people, order 24 hours ahead’.”
“The worst is when we are at a client’s house and he tells us that he
made a mistake and that he will not buy the whole order because he does
not have enough money,” says Liset. Without a prior reservation through
internet or the guarantee of a credit card number in
some online service, sellers can be victims of “jokes and false orders,”
says the entrepreneur.
However, he says the incidence of these events is “infrequent” and that
in general his experience is that business “is positive.” An advantage
is that, “you do not need a large place or even have to invest in
setting up a restaurant, just a phone line and a good organization in
Loyalty programs, rebates when a customer exceeds a number of orders per
month and even small gifts to the most frequent customers, are some
practices that are also beginning to spread. “Customers who put in more
than two orders a month, we give them an extra menu item,” said Liset
The entrepreneurs are planning to implement “a system of points and
customer numbers to make ordering faster.” They believe that in the
emerging food sector, those who are “not creative will be left out in
the cold.” They are betting on home delivery and “the future of the sale
of food in Cuba,” says the seller.
A colorful motorcycle with the emblem of Banana City Delivery was
traveling the central avenue of Rancho Boyeros in Havana this
Monday. From a collective taxi, a passenger tried to write down the
telephone number to place an order. An image that two decades ago was
unthinkable on Cuban streets.
Source: Home Delivery Services, A Business That Captivates Cubans –
Translating Cuba –