New app Chowbus will deliver Asian food in Dallas, Plano, Richardson and other burbs

The food delivery service Chowbus has launched in Dallas and its suburbs. The company can currently deliver food from 40 independently owned Asian restaurants in Dallas, Plano, Carrollton and Richardson. The restaurants on the list so far are heavy in the Plano area. They include Dosanko Ramen (inside Mitsuwa Marketplace) […]

The food delivery service Chowbus has launched in Dallas and its suburbs.

The company can currently deliver food from 40 independently owned Asian restaurants in Dallas, Plano, Carrollton and Richardson. The restaurants on the list so far are heavy in the Plano area. They include Dosanko Ramen (inside Mitsuwa Marketplace) in Plano, Imperial Cuisine in Plano, Royal Sichuan in Richardson, Taste of Chengdu in Carrollton and Fat Ni BBQ in Carrollton and Plano.

Dessert shops such as Beard Papa’s and Mango Mango Dessert and the drink shop Zero Degrees are also on the delivery list.

Chowbus was created by a Chicago entrepreneur, Linxin Wen, in 2016. Wen, now 30 years old, created Chowbus specifically to partner with mom-and-pop Asian restaurants.

Royal Sichuan in Richardson is on the Chowbus app.
Royal Sichuan in Richardson is on the Chowbus app.(Rex C. Curry)

“It helps the customer to explore authentic Asian food,” Wen says. He and business partner Suyu Zhang say most of their customers do not use other third-party delivery apps, and that exposed an opportunity to create loyalty among local Asian restaurants.

“Our app is focused around independent restaurants,” he says. “That’s what we are passionate about.”

Today, Chowbus is in more than 30 cities, including two others in Texas: Austin and Houston. The company employs 7,000 drivers on a contract basis.

Like the third-party delivery companies UberEats and DoorDash, Chowbus charges the customer a delivery fee and charges the restaurant a percentage commission for each sale. Wen wouldn’t disclose the percentage but says it’s lower than the 20% to 30% that delivery companies often charge restaurants.

He also says the company runs on “very thin gross margins.” It has raised nearly $70 million in funding, including a $33 million round in the midst of the pandemic. Wen says the pandemic gave an obvious boost to food-delivery services, and Chowbus expanded to 10 more cities in 2020 alone.

General Manager Michael Chan of Kirin Court restaurant in Richardson, on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. Kirin Court uses various takeout services to keep the restaurant afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One way Chowbus differentiates itself is by offering customers a membership of $9.99 per month for unlimited free delivery — “like Amazon Prime,” Wen says. Otherwise, customers pay between 99 cents and $4.99 per delivery order. That’s in line with the charges of delivery companies such as Grubhub.

Customers can also “bundle” food from more than one restaurant in the same order.

“People really like to get their milk tea from one place, their pork bao from another,” a company statement explains. Wen says it felt “natural” to allow customers to continue to be loyal to one Asian restaurant for a specific dish.

Delivery is available in most of Dallas, as well as Frisco, Carrollton, Allen, Plano, Richardson, The Colony and Addison, according to a spokeswoman. Delivery fees do not increase when a customer bundles food from more than one restaurant, but fees might go up if a customer chooses a restaurant that requires a driver to make a longer trip.

For more food news, follow Sarah Blaskovich on Twitter at @sblaskovich.

Joann Buentello, a manager at Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, hands off a pick-up order to an Uber Eats driver on March 19, 2020. GAPCo uses four third-party delivery services, but the company also employs 13 of its own drivers.

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