There’s a new delivery platform in town that’s doubling every day. BoatGrub is thriving in a very hyper local market: the two square miles between Lobster Cove, Wingaersheek Beach and the Annisquam Lighthouse. If you’re unfamiliar, that’s the Ipswitch Bay side of the North Shore of Massachusetts where BoatGrub founder and CEO Hugh Mitchell is ferrying food around the beach and boat community.
BoatGrub (no affiliation to Grubhub) just started making deliveries last week, but he’s seeing major traction already and has grabbed the attention of multiple news outlets from the Boston Herald to the local podcast and YouTube show, GlouchesterCast Live.
He said he thinks people appreciate the entrepreneurial story, but also real value in an untapped market.
“I think they can really see the value of it in these socially distancing times, which is why I started it,” said Mitchell. “These restaurants couldn’t touch this addressable market otherwise. You got to be able to adapt right now.”
He said the business was a major detour brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, as he had a handful of job prospects, but then the whole world ground to a halt.
“In March everything dried up, everyone had hiring freezes. I didn’t have that many prospects. And living next to the water I wanted to get a boat, but my dad said I had to make something happen and not sit on the water all day,” he added.
So, Mitchell got a 1986 Boston Whaler, and whipped up a BoatGrub flag. He said folks are already into the brand, yelling “BoatGrub” when he drives by. For the non-sailors out there, the flag symbols are actually nautical signals that stand for B and G. He said that exceptionally fast brand response is just part of the potential for restaurants, to co-market on the boats or in the app (which he’s developing right now).
“In two to five years, I want to have a fleet of BoatGrub drivers hanging out on the beaches delivering from beach restaurants and beach bars, anyone that has a dock or moorings. I’m hoping these social distancing rules don’t last forever, but it’s going to have an effect on restaurants for years to come.”
The ideal vision is expanding the network down the coast to other nearby boating communities with plenty of beachside dining.
He said customers are exceptionally pleased when Mitchell drives alongside and hands over a lobster roll, a burger or a fried chicken sandwich while they lounge, swim or just enjoy the sun.
“They love the service; they love the convenience factor of it. I’ve had a couple people say, ‘Hey you’re doing God’s work,’” said Mitchell. “How can you not love that?”
Currently, there is only a $10 flat delivery fee and he said most customers tip on top of that. The next step is finishing a platform to connect to restaurants, at that point they would also pay a small service fee and the potential for further marketing, much like other delivery platforms have.
Even as the seasons change, Mitchell said the operations might continue. For beachside restaurant that see dramatic shifts in business, BoatGrub could keep sales afloat through the winter, too. Right now, he sees it as an entrepreneurial life preserver for restaurants hit by COVID-19, but one with exceptional room to grow.
“I’m just really excited about the traction it’s been getting. I want people to see that potential and understand that there is this vast untapped market,” said Mitchell.
For the salivating acquisition folks out there, Mitchell said he’s not looking to get gobbled up quite yet, but he wouldn’t snub an investment–Boston Whaler’s aren’t cheap.