WHYY: Philly startup finds untapped market for Black-owned restaurants

Black-owned businesses can be hard to find in some Philadelphia neighborhoods — and for hungry people who want to buy Black, it’s a problem.

But 24-year-old entrepreneur David Cabello has a solution: Black and Mobile, an online food delivery service that delivers exclusively for Black-owned restaurants.

“I have people come to me [saying] ‘Oh, that’s racist,’” said Cabello, who co-founded Black and Mobile with his twin brother Aaron. “No, it’s not. I’m just trying to show our people that we can love each other first. And we can do for self.”

Black and Mobile operates similarly to larger corporate delivery services like GrubHub and UberEats. Customers order through the company’s website or app, selecting from menus belonging to 25 partner restaurants. Once the order is made, a Black and Mobile dispatcher calls it into the restaurant and sends a driver to pick it up for delivery to the customer.

Cabello says he got the idea for his company after delivering for other services on a bike. At one point he made more than $1,000 in less than two days.

“If I can make this much money delivering food [for someone else], how much can I make if I own the company?” he remembers asking himself.

Cabello researched the online food delivery business that has taken off in recent years as consumers get used to the convenience of summoning their desires via smartphone.

As the young entrepreneur learned more about the industry, he realized an untapped market. None of the major food delivery companies were Black-owned.

“At that point, I knew I had a million-dollar business,” he said. “I felt all the goosebumps. I felt everything at that one moment.”

When Cabello launched Black and Mobile last February, he and his brother were making the deliveries personally on electric bikes. With its sleek branding and clear niche, the company attracted a following, until that summer when a bike accident took him off the road. He used the time offline to “strategize and game plan” with the hope of coming back stronger. Cabello’s wish came true this past fall when the company got back to work and saw a major jump in business.

Black and Mobile now has 15 drivers, all of whom are independent contractors, and the Philly company is looking for more.

Shante Minor manages A King’s Cafe in Philly’s West Oak Lane neighborhood. She praised the service for bringing attention to Black businesses like the Ogontz Avenue eatery, which partners with Black and Mobile.

“I think it’s real beautiful,” she said. “We get a lot of exposure through them and we also help them with a lot of exposure.”

Market researchers expect the online food delivery industry to hit $33 billion in 2024. The boom is concentrated in dense cities like Philadelphia, where delivery distances tend to be short and customers are plentiful.

But Cabello is already thinking beyond the City of Brotherly Love. He plans to next expand to Detroit, where the population is nearly 80% Black.

As the operation continues to grow, Cabello is open to bringing in non-Black restaurants. But first, he wants to be firmly established within his own community.

“Right now, I just need to stay on my mission and stay on my lane.”

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