The Man Who Came With Dinner
B. Morgan Cislini has a lock on Phoenix’ door-to-door catering
For B. Morgan Cislini, meals-on-wheels means business, not charity — a $3 million system for delivering eats to homes, hotels, and offices for 120 Phoenix-area restaurants. From bean-stuffed burritos to trendy gourmet cuisine, Cislini’s Delicious Deliveries Inc. in Tempe, Ariz., rolls out a moveable feast.
The concept is simple. Cislini publishes menus in a cheaply printed booklet left at hotels, in convenience stores, and on residential doorsteps. Customers phone orders into the company’s 15-seat call center, which faxes them on to the restaurants. Then, drivers — mostly college students with their own cars — are dispatched. How do the numbers add up? On average, Delicious Deliveries drops off 400 meals a night at $35 apiece. With a 30% commission and a $4.25 delivery fee, Cislini stays well fed.
Cislini, 28, didn’t start Delicious Deliveries (modeled on a national franchise, Takeout Taxi) but joined it in 1994 when a friend asked him to help boost profits and expand from its original home in Tucson. Cislini, then 23, did so with a vengeance. There were 11 competitors in Phoenix when he came to town in 1995; he scooped them all up in mergers and acquisitions financed with company revenues (he took practically no salary). He also bought out his three former college-buddy partners and now owns 75% with one silent partner. “We’re basically a monopoly,” he says happily. That hasn’t deterred him from cost-cutting. He co-developed time-saving custom software that automatically maps a delivery route, using Caller ID to locate the origin of the order.
Since Delicious Deliveries now takes him only 10 hours a week, Cislini is rolling out a new business: consulting for similar ventures in other cities. What’s behind the trend? “We’ve gone from a nation too busy to cook to a nation too busy to eat out,” says Joe Yuhaus of the National Restaurant Association. Until we’re too busy to eat at all, Cislini’s phones should keep ringing.