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PACKED HOUSE

Forget FedEx and UPS—Waffle House it

Traffic flashes by breakfast diners a a Waffle House near Dawsonville, Ga., Thursday, July 28, 2005. The eating establishment is open 24/7 everyday. There are 1,500 Waffle Houses spread across 25 states, as far west as Arizona and as far north as Illinois, but the chain is still rooted deeply in the South and retains a distinctively down-home, blue-collar aura. (AP Photo/Ric Feld)
AP/Ric Feld
The new epicenter of shipping.
By Zach Wener-Fligner

2014-15 Fellow. Quartz Things team.

This article is more than 2 years old.

Rather than go to the post office to pick up package deliveries, you may soon be heading to Waffle House. That’s thanks to a new partnership between the chain of 24-hour waffle diners and an Atlanta-based tech startup called Roadie that’s applying the laws of the sharing economy to package delivery.

Waffle House and Roadie make for an odd couple. Roadie is an early-stage company that raised $10 million in its first big funding round in January and has coordinated about 50 deliveries so far, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported this story. It borrows from the on-demand model popularized by Uber and other “sharing” startups: Customers use an app to request a delivery person, who picks up a package and takes it to its destination in return for 80% of the delivery fee.

Waffle House will serve as the exchange center for the packages, promoting Roadie in-store and online, and also offering deals like a free waffle for downloading the app and a free drink for delivery drivers.

In many ways, the odd pairing makes sense. Waffle House is ubiquitous in and around Atlanta, with over 100 locations in the city according to one geographer’s 2012 analysis. (In total, there are 1,750 locations in 25 US states, mostly in the south.)  In the very least, Waffle House benefits from the promise of a few more customers. For Roadie, Waffle House locations serve as a relatively safe, well-known meeting place to coordinate a package delivery with a random person compared to, say, a dark alley or a person’s home.

One important question, though, is who will be responsible when Roadie is used to deliver illicit goods. As The Wall Street Journal points out, both FedEx and UPS have faced scrutiny for allegedly shipping illegal goods, including in a 2013 investigation that UPS paid $40 million to settle.

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