Francois Dominguez has spent nearly a decade in Windsor living out his dream of running a restaurant serving the food his grandmother raised him on as child in Mexico.
But by December, after surviving through the early stages of the pandemic, he realized his dreams were crumbling around him.
"I was about to close my doors. I had no income, nothing. I couldn't afford to stay open," he remembers.
He laid off most his employees, trimming costs wherever possible but he thought it was about to end — until a Windsor delivery service app launched and kept his business alive.
Jubzi delivery service launches
Thanos Zikantas was fed up with the high commission rates that major mobile delivery apps wanted to charge him to add his restaurant Sofos to the platform.
"I refused to use these services, so I created my own platform."
Zikantas, a restaurant owner for 22 years, estimates that profit margins run between six and 12 per cent for an independent restaurant.
Delivery platforms like Uber Eats and Skip The Dishes can charge up to 30 per cent of an order. They've made adjustments during the pandemic, but Zikantas said the costs are unsustainable at a time when owners are trying to survive without patios or indoor dining.
He believes Jubzi will change the game. It operates on a five per cent commission from the restaurant on orders, but sends the entire amount to the Downtown Mission. A technical service fee, just under five per cent, is charged to the customer to keep the service operating.
Customers are charged a $5 delivery fee for any place within six kilometres and a dollar for each additional kilometre. That money, plus the tip, is paid to the driver.
So far, the service has more than 80 local restaurants on the platform with dozens more lined up. They've paid for 4,000 meals that went to people who use the emergency shelter in their first three months, and now have plans of expanding to Kingston and Brampton.
When Zikantas heard about Dominguez struggling, he decided to launch the service early hoping it would keep the restaurant open.
App helps keep the lights on
Palanque did dine-in and take-out, but Dominguez said he didn't dive into the delivery model because the major players wanted too much on each order.
"It was ridiculous. That would be a quarter of my income going to them," said Dominguez. He would need to eat the cost or pass it on to the customer.
"Basically I would be working for free, absolutely no income at all."
With the second wave hitting Windsor hard, daily cases of COVID-19 in the triple digits and new lockdown measures being implemented, he decided to try Jubzi for a month.
If it didn't work, Dominguez thought he'd be forced to shut down the restaurant.
"I could not survive in the business, I was about to close my doors."
Now he's pushing for more restaurants to sign up after seeing what it brought to his restaurant, but also because the money exchanged — from the delivery fee, service fee and the commission-as-donation - stays in Windsor-Essex.
"With Jubzi, we know that the money is going to stay here... I think we have to support our neighbour."
Listen to Jubzi CEO and the executive director of the Downtown Mission discuss the app on Afternoon Drive one month in: