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Utah Business

Trolley is a new app that aims to make it easier for small restaurants to offer delivery. Here's how.

Trolley could save restaurants from DoorDash

Trolley, an unlaunched app that consolidates the restaurant delivery process, has garnered lots of local attention. Though they just opened the round, they’re on the verge of closing a $500,000 pre-seed round, converting big name investors like Mark Smith and Scott Paul to their vision of a new restaurant industry.

Pickup fees are killing restaurants 

“Over the past four years, I’ve met with hundreds of restaurants trying to figure out their pain points and what wasn’t working for them,” says BYU graduate and Trolley founder Nate Carr.

The biggest problem restaurants faced? DoorDash and other mobile ordering apps. 

“[These apps] take 15 percent from the restaurant’s profit,” Carr says. “Restaurants historically operate with margins below 50 percent, so ordering with these delivery apps wipe out their profits.”

While the issue plaguing restaurants was easily identifiable, it was also deeply ingrained in the history of third-party ordering apps. The best outcome for the app developers––increased ordering on their platforms––is also one of the worst for the restaurants, who have to raise their prices or make big sacrifices on already slim margins. 

The answer? According to Carr’s research: get customers to order pickup directly through them instead.

Trolley’s first draft

Before COVID-19, Trolley wasn’t a marketplace app––it was a loyalty program for restaurants who couldn’t afford or maintain an app for their ordering services.

“We raised a small angel round of about $100,000 and were able to bring the idea to market fairly quickly,” Carr says. 30 days later, an early versio of Trolley launched with 3,000 organic downloads. However, as Carr was preparing for a meeting with a major investor, COVID was ramping up across the United States. Everything fell apart.

“We lost the investment and the entire team ended up leaving,” he says. “It was a huge hit.”

As COVID closed the doors of stores and restaurants across the world, Carr became the sole member of Trolley. While thinking about the future of his startup and contemplating closure, he decided to do what many other successful entrepreneurs do: he pivoted.

“I had a few different job offers and investors wanting me to build something else,” Carr says. “I turned them all down because I knew restaurants needed Trolley. In fact, [they] need Trolley now more than ever.”

Attracting investors

Still in the development stages, Carr needed cash. 

“The money we’re raising will primarily go to product development and then restaurant acquisition,” Carr says. He also plans on bringing on more team members to help him manage the administration of the growing startup.

The money Carr asked for came pretty quickly. Even in these early days, people like Smith and Eliot Jacobsen were captivated by Carr.

“Trolley is my favorite kind of company,” Smith says. “One with a mission to heavily impact small business, and run by a founder who has the passion and ability to get it done.”

Carr’s opening pitch––with no app out or development completed––was enough to get Paul to fork over a small investment.

“I love what Nate is doing,” he says. “He has experience in the industry, and time in marketing and app development, but more than that, he’s just infatuated with the problem. He gets angry talking about it.” 

Paul’s early input isn’t the end of his involvement with the soon-to-be platform.

“I like to bet on companies and founders that make a real difference,” he says. “I’m all in with Trolley.”

Carr expects to unveil his projects in restaurants within the next six months―and become a household name just as soon.

“When I learned of a new venture focused solely on streamlining and aggregated the take-out and dine-in ordering experience, I thought, ‘Surely that’s been done,’” says Jacobsen. “Well, it hasn’t, at least not well. I expect Trolley will become the most-used food app within one year in every market they enter.”

Jacqueline is a Master of Accounting graduate from the University of Utah. Specializing in tax, she's interested in business, government, and the intersection of the two. When she's not studying or writing, she loves to run, play Candy Crush, and read novels.