Caviar challenges GrubHub for Philly's high-end takeout

Just when it looked like GrubHub Seamless had bought up the nation's urban restaurant delivery business, Square Inc., the smartphone-based payment system company, has seen fit to expand its own high-end service, Caviar, to Philadelphia.

"When I was in San Francisco last year, my cousin told me, 'Omigod, you have to check out Caviar, they are unbelievable,'" says Ellen Yin, owner of Fork in Center City, who has signed up her sandwich and catering shop, High Street on Market, as one of the city's first Caviar locations.

At the mass-market delivery service, High Street had to stand out from "Bain's Deli or any number of pizza shops," Yin said. By contrast, Caviar targets "a select, high-quality group of restaurants. There are a lot of people who don't want to have to look through every single Chinese and Italian menu." The Caviar relationship isn't exclusive, she added: "It's a deal that works for us." 

Caviar promises real-time GPS order tracking, orders up to six days in advance, no minimum orders, delivery time selected first so sources that aren't ready aren't offered, and (mostly) four-star Yelp ratings. Caviar charges $5 per delivery, which it is waiving as it begins in Philadelphia, plus a percentage of each order, which the company (and Yin) declined to disclose. Philadelphia is Caviar's eighth market (it's already in New York, as you'd expect.) 

Other Philly spots that have signed on with Caviar include Federal Donuts, Mercato, and the Jose Garces group, acording to Caviar. Why is Caviar appropriate for High Street, not yet for Fork? "High Street on Market is sandwich-driven. It's casual. At High Street our lunch is suitable to delivery," Yin told me. "For us be able to deliver Fork to the outside would be extremely difficult. Part of the excitement of joining Fork is the environment, having it served hot to you. During travel you can't necessarily guarantee that." Though she's willing to consider it if things go well enough.