As a young banker living abroad over for last decade, including a stint in Singapore, Adam Hasham became taken with the local goods, whether it was back ribs in Paris or lox in Malaysia.
"The one thing I noticed is that, in every city I went to, the best things you can get are from that city."
So when he returned home to Toronto to start a business of his own, he had in mind not just a bike courier service, but one that would specialize in taking your restaurant or store order and fetching goods from unique local establishments.
For instance, scroll down the Hurrier homepage, and you'll find a starting roster of nine Toronto businesses the company has struck deals with – mostly trendy eateries and cafes, like Porchetta & Co. sandwiches, Fresh restaurants, and Grand Electric, a Parkdale joint that's equally famous for tacos and being more or less impossible to get a table at. There's also Shoppers Drug Mart, which isn't trendy, precisely, but sometimes you just want your shaving cream delivered.
Users can place orders, which Hurrier will purchase on their behalf (with a 5 per cent surcharge) and then deliver at rates metered on distance. The site promises "front of line" service, sending orders to the front of the queue at partner restaurants.
The site puts another interesting twist on the online-ordering paradigm: Unlike other food-ordering websites that break down orders in cascades of drop-down menus, Hurrier offers up a box with a simple instruction: "Enter your order and be descriptive." A technological simplifier, no doubt, but it also makes ordering a bit more humane.
"It was a bit of an experiment," says Mr. Hasham, "but we haven't seen any issues with people being descriptive."
For now, the restaurant-delivery option is given second billing on the Hurrier site. The site primarily promotes itself as a general-purpose bike courier service, outfitted with a slick interface that allows everyday users – not just corporate types – to order a pickup that will get anything from point A to point B in under an hour. Its business model accepts both part-time riders on-call for courier work on the side, along with professional bike couriers.
Mr. Hasham says that putting the straight-up courier service front and centre is a bit of a canard: "It's a way for us to feel out the market to see what people want."
The company has more partner institutions in the wings, he says; future targets for order-taking bike couriers could include grocers and hardware stores, for the home-renovation crowd that's short a few nails but doesn't want to drop everything to go to the store.
It's not just consumers who stand to gain, says Mr. Hasham; bike couriers get a reprieve from shuttling sheafs of corporate documents between Bay St. front desks – a business that's already being squeezed by recessionary pressure, and a move to sending documents online.
"For the first time, these guys are being greeted," says Mr. Hasham. "The person who gets the delivery knows their name. They're bringing things people want."