By Midge Pierce
As SE Portland’s commercial corridors grow and change, so too do the eating habits of residents. Cavier, GrubHub and even Amazon are the future of Portland’s food scene according to several SE restaurateurs. One surmises that the Silicon generations’ dependence on electronics may be driving the shift.
Diane Santucci opened a branch of Portland’s beloved Russell St. BBQ on Belmont St. and says the bulk of her business at the new location is delivery. “Millennials are driving a trend of eating at home,” she says. “Maybe it’s because they like having unlimited access to their electronics,” she muses.
Across the street at the Bite on Belmont food cart pod, Viking Soul Food owner Megan Walhood agrees that delivery is the future. She and many of the carts in the pod such as Herb’s Mac and Cheese use an array of delivery services, especially once the weather gets cold and wet. “On a rainy night, delivery services are a great option.”
Whether driven by newbies, new growth, new generations or even holiday overload, the ease and convenience of delivery is a draw according to marketing guru Veronica Anton. Yet, she says, residents who opt out of eating in are missing opportunities. Rewarding experiences come from visiting the quirky restaurants and shops of the Eastside’s Main Street style corridors. “People really have to engage with our businesses to get a sense of their personalities,” she says.
Current Belmont Business Association President Constance Ihrke confirms that home and office delivery is growing. “Social media is used to offer specials for walk-ins…We are looking at running some winter promotions in January and or February to increase walk in traffic during the slower months.”
In addition to missed social opportunities, delivery surcharges that run as high as 30% can impact businesses on narrow margins and those getting established in new locations. Russell St. BBQ’s Santucci says food purveyors have no control over the delivery – how long it takes or in what condition the food arrives.
On the upside, delivery services can offset closures and detours caused by nearby construction. When the Belmont carts had to move across the street to make room for a co-housing facility, delivery services came to the rescue.
Walhood particularly likes Delivery Dudes, a locally-owned service that charges less than competitors. Business is now back stronger than ever, she says, because the new location’s gate offers better security.
“At the other location we had constant break-ins,” she said “This is a much better spot.”
Established eateries east of SE 39th rely often on breakfast and brunch crowds.
On Hawthorne, long established eateries like Bread and Ink also rely on early birds to keep business hearty. Morning fare is almost always eat-on-site, says a worker from the adjacent Waffle Window which has seating inside and a courtyard outside.
Coffeeshops remain loaded, if not packed, with remote workers who consider cafés an extension of their office. During last month’s cyber shopping, the original Division Street Stumptown Coffee Shop was swamped with customers using Wi-Fi connections.
Residents are taking heart that the departing Woodsman Tavern will be replaced by Tasty n Sons, relabeling as Tasty n Daughters when it moves from N. Williams Ave. to Division St. Curiosity will likely be a strong on-site attraction.