Some downtown restaurants offer an unexpected third party delivery option. Amazon quietly runs a free ad hoc restaurant delivery service with drivers and vehicles that no longer push its employees around while ordering at home.
So far, the pilot program has only been offered to restaurants in Amazon buildings such as the Middle East fast-casual Mamnoon Street restaurant and Korean-Hawaiian taco specialist Marination. Wassef Hanoun, owner of Mamnoon Street, told Eater Seattle that although it is still in the early stages and there is a “learning curve” with drivers, some of whom are still there, the service could be helpful in cutting costs have never delivered groceries before. Marination co-owner Kamala Saxton says the restaurant received a survey about delivery service via email but hasn’t signed up yet. While it continues to formulate a plan for the chain, Saxton will consider Amazon as a delivery option. “At this point we will consider anything that could be useful to meet the needs of our guests while keeping our staff and guests as safe as possible,” she says.
For this service, Amazon pays the drivers who work for a third-party company called MV Transportation, which offers a shuttle service for the tech giant. Deliveries are designed in such a way that they have no contact – restaurants pack the food themselves, put it in the trunk for the drivers, then drop it off at the doorstep of guests who place orders directly from the restaurant’s website. For all reasons, this appears to be a temporary offer for local businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than a forerunner to a full-featured Grubhub-like app.
Last week, Amazon sent a memo to its corporate employees saying they can work from home until October 2nd if their roles allow. Regardless of when the city dining rooms reopen, restaurants or bars near the campus could face even greater challenges. In early March, when Amazon and Microsoft issued guidelines for working from home during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many who service these tech hubs lost most of their sales in a matter of days. Despite the current takeaway and delivery options, some of these restaurants will remain closed.
Amazon launched a fund to provide small business grants in the downtown area and distributed $ 10 million to applicants. It also offered rent relief to restaurant tenants of its buildings, including Mamnoon Street, through April, though Hanoun says it is unclear whether this will continue. Any scholarship is also just a stopgap, and restaurants that rely on daytime business are unlikely to stay afloat for very long. Many restaurants and bars in the area, if they reopen at all, need to expand their delivery services as much as possible and save every penny they can – but they also need a lot more support in general.