There’s a new way to enjoy restaurant food from the comfort of one's home, thanks to a new food delivery service in Mitchell.

What started off as a food delivery service in the city of Brookings has now expanded into three more South Dakota cities, and Mitchell is the newest location that Zapoya Delivery established in November.

The idea started after Luke Davidson, Zapoya's co-founder, woke up after a Friday night out with his friends in Brookings, where he attended college at South Dakota State University.

“I woke up on a Saturday morning after a night of fun and wanted Guadalajara’s delivered, but there wasn’t any way for that to happen, so I thought there was a market there to make this type of delivery a reality,” Davidson said.

Having familiarity with popular food delivery services in larger cities such as Grubhub or Uber Eats, the 31-year-old said he felt like his hometown would get behind a similar operation. Thus, Zapoya was born in Brookings in February 2015.

Davidson credits his late mother, who operated a veterinary business for a number of years, for inspiring him to take the leap into becoming a business owner.

“I’d seen from my mom that staring and running a business is not as hard as people think it is, and my dad’s business knowledge also helped me gain the confidence to do this,” Davidson said. “But I couldn’t do it on my own.”

That’s when Davidson called on his close friend and former high school classmate, Dan Stratton, to join him as a co-owner. Davidson and Stratton, both Brookings High School graduates, run all four of the Zapoya territories.

And while the name is unique, it doesn't have a special meaning to the owners. The company changed its name late in 2019 from Zip Dish to Zapoya, helping legally differentiate the name from any possible competitors. Davidson said he and Stratton bounced random-sounding names that started with "Z" off of each other until landing on Zapoya.

Becoming a busy business

The structure of Zapoya is possible through technology. The company has a website that can be accessed through traditional computers or mobile devices where customers can peruse different restaurant menu offerings. Customers can place an order from a local restaurant, which is then picked up by a Zapoya driver and delivered to the customer's location. Davidson and Stratton serve as the dispatchers, which entails one of the two receiving the order on their computer and Davidson or Stratton select which delivery driver will be tasked to deliver the food order.

“All of our orders that we deliver are made online through our website, and the customers orders are not placed until our driver calls it in after we let them know when to pick it up,” he said. “This is how we keep the food fresh and hot.”

In Mitchell, there are three Zapoya drivers who are tasked to receive the food from one of the 11 local restaurants that contract Zapoya to provide the service. Zapoya’s hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner Monday through Sunday.

For customer payments, Davidson said the transaction is done at the door of the delivery location, which must be done through credit or debit cards. The minimum price of an order must also be at least $12 for a delivery. The rates are as follows: $5.99 for an order between $12 and $49.99; $6.99 for an order between $50 and $99.99; $7.99 for an order over $100.

During Zapoya’s infancy, Davidson said he and Stratton were responsible for handling customers orders and delivering them to the locations. As more orders kept coming in, and the volume grew, Davidson said he began hiring full-time delivery drivers to take on the role to allow him and Stratton to serve as the dispatchers.

“It got to the point that we were so busy, and we couldn’t do both, so we started the process of hiring drivers,” Davidson said.

As of now, Davidson and Stratton continue to serve as the dispatchers from their homes. Considering Davidson resides in Brookings, and Stratton lives in Sioux Falls, the two had their sights set on expanding into cities that are relatively close to their homes.

The first new territory Zapoya expanded into Watertown after being in business for just over a year, followed by moving into Aberdeen a year later and now Mitchell. Aside from basing new territory expansions being within close proximity of Brookings, Davidson said the population and the college town status of the communities are factors that went into deciding where Zapoya would expand. The primary demographic of customers Zapoya has experienced are families and people within the ages of 25 and 35-years old.

“All of these communities have some things in common like colleges and hospitals,” he said. “Folks who just don’t have enough time to take care of dinner as they would like to are the main people who use us, and Mitchell has those types of people in abundance."

Davidson emphasizes key differences between Zapoya and larger food delivery companies, highlighting that he and Stratton look to hire local employees and operate as a traditional business with set hours. Zapoya also has its employees as classified W-2 employees, rather than independent contractors, which is common for other larger food-delivery businesses.

As the young entrepreneurs continue building more relationships with new Mitchell restaurants, their mission to bring quality customer service and restaurant food delivery remains a constant.

“We’re not just some guys picking up and delivering some food for a company based out of another state. We are a quality customer service oriented business,” Davidson said. “The local restaurants in Mitchell have been very enthusiastic about welcoming our service."