Waffle House: Why It's Competing Against FedEx

PHOTO: The Waffle House restaurant chain in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jan. 24, 2005. Jim Stratford/Bloomberg News/Getty Images
The Waffle House restaurant chain in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jan. 24, 2005.

A growing delivery app that's described as the "Uber of shipping" has found an unlikely partner in the restaurant chain Waffle House.

Marc Gorlin, founder and CEO of Roadie, announced today that his crowd-sourced shipping provider has designated the Waffle House as its first official "Roadie Roadhouse."

"If you live in the South, you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a Waffle House, so I’ve been to plenty growing up," Gorlin, a native of Atlanta, told ABC News.

Roadie hopes that all 1,750 Waffle House restaurants in 25 states will provide a convenient, safe meeting location for drivers and senders. Roadies get a free waffle at any 24-hour Waffle House after downloading the app and a free beverage when they're on a "gig," paying homage to band roadies who transport instruments.

"They’re a comfort food icon. They’re a safe place and they’re a part of the community. Roadies at its core is about helping each other out," Gorlin, 42, said.

Here's how it works: Any insured driver can sign up to be a Roadie driver after meeting certain safety criteria and passing a background check. "Senders" can select a Roadie driver to deliver their item -- nothing illegal of course. The price of a gig can range anywhere between $8 and $200, based on distance, item size and urgency. Roadie's insurance covers items up to $500, which Gorlin said is more than typical standard shipping insurance of $100.

PHOTO: Roadie, Inc., and Waffle House formed a partnership, with the restaurant providing a meeting place for Roadies and customers.Courtesy Roadie Inc.
Roadie, Inc., and Waffle House formed a partnership, with the restaurant providing a meeting place for Roadies and customers.

For now, the company that's barely one-month old offers its app in the Southeastern U.S., but it also plans to launch nationally later this year, Gorlin said.

The idea for Roadie came to Gorlin when he had an urgent home construction delivery from Montgomery, Alabama to Florida. He previously started small business lender Kabbage.com.

"I see all these cars going north and going south. There is bound to be someone coming from Montgomery," he recalled. "That was the lightning moment. There’s a transportation heat map under our feet."

PHOTO: Roadie, Inc., and Waffle House formed a partnership, with the restaurant providing a meeting place for Roadies and customers.Courtesy Roadie Inc.
Roadie, Inc., and Waffle House formed a partnership, with the restaurant providing a meeting place for Roadies and customers.

The company only has about 7,500 downloads, but it has some major financial backers. When Roadie launched on Jan. 27, it announced $10 million in Series A funding, including from Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, Guggenheim Partners’ executive chairman Alan Schwartz, the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund and Square co-founder Jim McKelvey.

Gorlin touts the environmental benefits of relying on a driver already going to the package's destination plus the impact of fewer boxes and packing peanuts.

"We’re a startup," he said. "We’re happy if they’re doing it one way or another."