Good Uncle, a delivery-only restaurant without fees or minimum delivery requirements, opened at the University of Maryland on Feb. 15.
Customers pick up their orders at designated drop points rather than having food delivered straight to their doors. The company has seven drop points in College Park — five in Old Town, one at Terrapin Row and one at The View.
More drop points will be added to this university after spring break on March 25, said Mike Vecchi, who handles business development and market activation for Good Uncle.
“We kind of have to do a slow-ish rollout where right now we really only service Old Town because it’s really easy to service — it’s all in like one area,” Vecchi said.
After spring break, the number of drop points will be expanded so that most areas of campus have access, Vecchi said, calling it the grand opening for the campus.
Wiley Cerilli, Good Uncle founder and co-CEO, said the company is creating a new type of restaurant that people interact with differently. Food is prepared at the company’s kitchen on Roanoke Place, but there is kitchen equipment inside the company’s vans so the food can be cooked on the way to customers.
All of the cooking equipment is in the vans, while the preparation activities are done in the kitchen. The goal is for the food to be fresher and arrive faster as a result, he said.
“When you see this truck coming, it’s almost more like an ice cream truck,” Cerilli said, “where you can place your order and have it.”
Customers can order Good Uncle from its app, and average delivery times are between 10 and 12 minutes, Vecchi said. In the past week, 40 percent of users got their food within five minutes, Cerilli said. Drop points are visited every 10 to 15 minutes, he added.
Good Uncle offers menu items such as chicken fingers, chicken sandwiches, pastas, and subs, all for about $10. There are also items like salads and cookies for varying prices. Customers have to act quickly, Ryan said, since some items tend to sell out by later in the evening.
Cerilli said Good Uncle’s model — no storefront and mobile autonomous kitchens — is the blueprint other restaurants will use in the future. Cerilli said he thinks the majority of restaurants will not have storefronts in the next 10 years. Good Uncle could be fueled by self-driving cars and robotic kitchens in the next few years, he added.
“[My kids are] going to look back and say, ‘Dad, I can’t believe you had to wait, like, 45 minutes for restaurant food to get to your door,'” Cerilli said.
Good Uncle also partners with New York restaurant brands like Rosco & Benedetto and Sticky’s Finger Joint to have the right to recreate their recipes, which it is doing at the College Park location. There is no minimum order on Good Uncle and no delivery fee, Vecchi said.
Ryan Golub, a sophomore enrolled in letters and sciences, said he first heard of Good Uncle from his friends a couple weeks ago and has used it three times since then. He said he wished the menu had a larger selection and the ability to order drinks other than water.
“I’m lactose intolerant so a cheeseburger would not do it,” Golub said. “You can’t change how you want it.”
Cerilli said there will be changes to the menu in the future, including the addition of healthier options.
Good Uncle is also located at Syracuse University and the University of Delaware, Vecchi said. It first launched at Syracuse in winter of 2017 and at Delaware in fall of 2017. Good Uncle is planning on expanding to 10 new markets in the next nine months and between 15 and 20 new markets in the next year and a half, Cerilli said.
“We don’t have to build anything out,” Cerilli said. “We can just drive one of our kitchens into the market and open it up.”
Cerilli said this university is the first location to launch with Good Uncle Instant — the ability to have food orders cooked on the way to drop points in under 10 minutes.
“Maryland is our most important market because when we go to fundraise our next round of funding, they’re going to look at Maryland,” Cerilli said. “Maryland is sort of like our flagship location.”
Syracuse does not have access to Good Uncle Instant, and Delaware does now but did not start with it. At Syracuse, Vecchi said, the company started a subscription-based plan that could be used instead of the campus meal plan.
All residents living in traditional housing on the campus are required to have a dining plan at this university, but Good Uncle could still supplement the meal plans for those living in dorms, said Dining Services spokesman Bart Hipple.
“This might be a great in-between for some students,” Hipple said. “Not quite as expensive as eating out, not quite as hard as cooking on your own.”