Editor’s note: this story pairs with “Classically trained chef finds success through fried chicken”
Elizabeth Callahan finishes work at 9 p.m. There’s no food in the fridge because she doesn’t have time to go grocery shopping. She’s tired. She’s hungry. So is her husband.
In the past, Elizabeth and Jake Callahan would go to Wendy’s or McDonald’s. But now, they can have high quality food delivered right to their door — even after 9 p.m.
“I don’t want to make food. I have homework to do. If someone can cook for me and deliver it to my house, that’s nice,” Elizabeth said, “and late, as well.”
In spring of 2016, Jacob and Ammon Chung started a late night sushi delivery business, Five Sushi Brothers, to solve problems such as Elizabeth’s .
They were quickly followed by the opening of Chip Cookies in November 2016. In September 2017, Love Me Tenders began delivering fried chicken sandwiches after 9 p.m., inspired by the examples of Five Sushi Brothers and Chip Cookie Co.
These businesses have experienced exponential growth in a small amount of time, opening the door for further development of a late night food culture that doesn’t revolve around pizza.
BYU marketing and entrepreneurship professor Gary Rhoads attributes the trend to the large population of college students in Provo and Orem who stay up late because of jobs, social activities and studying. He said that after returning to their apartments at the end of a long day, most students don’t want to leave again to go get food — especially fast food, which is typically the only thing available after 9 p.m.
But what really has made these businesses successful, Rhoads said, is the variety of options they provide.
“Now what comes to your door traditionally? Pizza,” Rhoads said, “So all of a sudden there’s this alternative.”
For Elizabeth and Jake, these alternatives are a much better option than pizza.
“It’s more expensive than the other options I have, and I like the other options better,” Jake said, “For feeding a large amount of people, (pizza) is probably better, but just for the two of us, it’ll end up being the same or even cheaper to go with these other options and they’re better food.”
While Rhoads theorized that restaurants like Five Sushi Brothers, Chip Cookie Co. and Love Me Tenders have cut into pizza delivery profit, neither the local Domino’s nor the local Papa John’s was able to confirm a dip in delivery sales.
Of course, Rhoads said, the idea of late night food delivery that isn’t pizza isn’t new.
“This is a phenomenon that’s happening all over the country, in some of the large cities,” Rhoads said.
For Stephen Wirthlin, co-founder of Chip Cookies, the big city is where he and his brother drew inspiration for their product.
“We were kind of going for a big city feel, and we loved the idea of late night delivery,” Wirthlin said in an article in spring of 2017.
Wirthlin’s brother and co-founder, Chris, added that people don’t really have to go to the “big city” anymore.
“New York is the city that never sleeps, and we are bringing a little of that to Provo,” Chris said.
While Rhoads said the major market for late night food delivery is college students, Love Me Tenders, the newest business in Provo, has seen a wider demographic.
Chad and Kimber Pritchard, along with their nephew Brandon, originally thought their product would only appeal to college students.
“We’re finding all kinds of people who want our product, like single mothers who put their kids in bed at night and can’t go out to get food,” Kimber said.
Brandon added that Love Me Tenders delivers food to the local hospital almost every week.
Perhaps even more shocking is that these businesses have little to no paid advertising. Publicity has all been through word of mouth or social media.
Elizabeth Callahan remembers first hearing about Five Sushi Brothers from a friend who shared a picture on Instagram. She didn’t understand what it was at first.
“I had a friend, I went over to her house and we spent the night and she (asked), ‘Do you want to order Five Sushi Brothers? I have a coupon for free California rolls,'” Callahan said. “I (said), ‘Sweet, let’s do it,’ and then we got coupons as well for the next order so then I wanted to order more, and then I got hooked.”
Her husband, Jake, remembers first seeing a Facebook post about Five Sushi Brothers when he came home from his mission, but like Callahan, he didn’t know what it was when he heard his friends talking about it.
“I had friends say ‘Hey, let’s get Five Sushi Brothers,’ and I felt like I was out of the loop because everyone else knew what they were talking about,” Jake said.
Jake happens to be close friends with Brandon Pritchard, one of the co-founders of Love Me Tenders, so he and his wife have been in the know since the beginning.
Of course, money remains an issue. Callahan said if she and her husband could afford it, they would order late night delivery more often. But Rhoads predicts this is the just part of an all-encompassing delivery trend.
“You’re going to see more and more organizations, whether it’s groceries, restaurants, bringing products to you,” Rhoads said, “That’s a market that’s growing.”