Rapidly Growing Cincybite to Expand Delivery Area and Service Offerings

Just about a year ago, a new food delivery service entered the Cincinnati market. The idea behind it was one not uncommon in other larger urban centers around the country, but was new to the area.

While it can be simple to get sandwiches, pizza, or Chinese food delivered locally, that tends to be the limit of your options. But Robbie Sosna, who had lived Miami, New York City and Los Angeles after growing up in Blue Ash, knew the city could do better. So he launched Cincybite last December.

What Cincybite does is partner with area restaurants to deliver their regular menu items to hungry customers around the city. Sosna said they first started with just six restaurant partners and delivered only during dinner time in the center city. However, after a strong start, Cincybite quickly added lunch delivery options and added an additional seven restaurant partners within two weeks after their initial launch.

The early success of the business is yet another example of the retail services not keeping pace with the city’s population growth. While the age-old idea of ‘retail follows rooftops’ may still be true, technology is also now allowing some of that to be bypassed through innovative on-demand delivery services.

“In New York and LA there were restaurant delivery services, and I was surprised to find none existed in town,” Sosna explained. “The response has been phenomenal and I’m working hard to expand the service through the metro area.”

This is not his first foray into the food industry. In 2009, he purchased his first Freshii franchise in Los Angeles before ultimately moving those operations to Cincinnati and bringing the popular fresh food chain to the region in 2012.

Cincybite’s offices are located downtown and are currently staffed by six employees who are tracking all sorts of data and usage patterns. The data they are collecting, Sosna says, is what is helping them determine what other restaurants to approach, types of food to add, and which areas to expand to next.

One area that has not yet been officially added to Cincybite’s delivery area is the city’s west side neighborhoods, but they say it is only a matter of time, and drivers, before that happens. As for now, the focus remains on the region’s center city neighborhoods and many on the city’s east side and along the I-71 corridor.

“When looking at future areas of growth, my director of ops and I study our current sales data and customer feedback,” Sonsa explained. “We’re looking at strengthening our variety of restaurants in our current zones and planning our growth north.”

When asked where those next areas of operations might be, he said that they are looking at Kenwood, Madeira, Blue Ash, Montgomery and Indian Hill, but also clarified that Cincybite has unofficially also begun serving the west side.

Growing Cincybite’s delivery area and food options is just the beginning of the company’s overall growth plans. They have just launched a new service that offers delivery of basic grocery items and other incidentals like batteries, cleaning products, toiletries, over the counter medicine, baby food and supplies, and snacks. Likening the service to Amazon Fresh, Sosna says that he is working with a number of other businesses in order to add even more items.

“We’ve had conversations with local pet shops, butcher shops, dessert companies and a variety of other businesses looking to add additional revenue and awareness to their brand,” said Sosna. “There really is no limit for what Cincybite can offer Cincinnati, and we’re working hard to expand the delivery zones so everyone in the city can enjoy.”

Those who want to use the service merely need to register for an account and then shopping as would typically be done with any online retailer. The website also allows customers to select the date and time they would like to have their items delivered, and also allows for the user to pre-select an amount to tip the driver.

But one thing that was made clear was that none of this would be possible for Sosna without the resurgence taking place in Cincinnati. Had it not been for that, he said he may have stayed in Los Angeles instead of coming home.

“The commute back and forth for 2.5 years helped calm my nerves, but as I opened my Freshii location and began spending more time in the city, I realized a lot of progress had been made and the city was headed in the right direction,” Sosna told UrbanCincy.

“The approval of the streetcar, construction of The Banks, revival of OTR, food scene throughout the city, investment in tech with Brandery and Cintrifuse, and GE selecting Cincinnati for their future operations center were just a few of the reasons highlighting how great the city had improved and made the transition all the easier.”

Economists: Cincinnati’s Regional Economy Outperforming Both Pittsburgh and Cleveland

Analysis of data recently released by the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland shows the area’s economy in a relatively healthy position compared to nearby metro areas, and to the nation as a whole.

LaVaughn Henry, Vice President and Senior Regional Officer at the Cincinnati Branch, says that he believes the region’s economy is poised for continued economic growth, and he points to several factors that contribute to his optimism – a highly educated workforce, an economy healthily spread amongst different sectors, and numerous Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city.

When diving into the numbers, Henry points to 30% of the regional workforce holding a bachelor’s degree as an item that makes the city an attractive place to do business.

He also touts the city’s relatively low unemployment rate which stands at 5.2% – about even with Pittsburgh and a full percentage point better than the rates nationally and for the state of Ohio. Making the area’s economy even stronger is the fact that its top industry sectors – professional and business services, health and education, and skilled manufacturing – all continue to experience healthy growth.

The Federal Reserve also pointed to continued capital spending as a bright spot that is boosting employment and earnings. Specifically, two hospital expansions and the opening of General Electric’s Global Operations Center at The Banks are expected to support thousands of jobs through 2016.

While the data found that Cincinnati is out-performing many of its peers, it also found that it has room for improvement in terms of wage and GDP growth.

Wages, the Federal Reserve says, have yet to reach pre-recession levels locally, and, while growing, are growing modestly at best. Researchers say that Cincinnati is suffering from a national problem of too many workers in the labor market, and high growth in low-paying service sector jobs that depress wage data. And while the region’s gross domestic product is growing faster than the national average, economists note that, like wages, it has yet to reach pre-recession levels.

When compared to Pittsburgh and Cleveland, the only other two metropolitan regions with more than 2 million people in the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland district, Cincinnati is, by far, the healthiest performer.

In Cleveland economists note that its economy is recovering from the Great Recession much better than the recession of 2001, yet it continues to trail national averages. While unemployment is falling throughout the region, it remains stubbornly high at 6.8% – above both the national and state averages. A bright spot, however, is Cleveland’s 28.5% bachelor’s degree rate within the workforce is at least on-par with the national average.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, recovered the quickest of the three from the Great Recession, but has since seen its economic indicators stall. While unemployment has consistently stayed below the national average, growth in almost all industries in the city was lower than the national average. And while GDP grew from 2009 to 2012, economists at the Federal Reserve expect the data to be somewhat more somber once data is released for 2013 and 2014.

Fifth Annual Asian Food Fest Moves to Washington Park This Sunday

The fifth annual Asian Food Fest (AFF) is coming to Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine on Sunday, October 5.

Festival organizers say that the event aims to promote diversity through Asian food and culture, and features items from countries all over Asia including Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and the Indian subcontinent.

This year the AAF has formed a food council to work with each of their vendors to put together a collective menu that organizers believe will provide a unique experience for festival attendees. With a variety of small plates priced from $2 to $6, they hope those who attend can take a thorough food tour of Asia in a single day.

An exciting change for AAF this year is its move from The Banks to Washington Park. Lam Dang, marketing director for AFF, says that Washington Park, with the help of 3CDC, will provide a lively backdrop and a more comfortable place to hose a festival of this nature.

“At The Banks there wasn’t any natural area to sit down and eat, or to hangout on the street,” Dang told UrbanCincy. “We brought in our own tent and tables there but still the overall feel was very rigid, though The Banks did have a nice view of the city.”

Dang also said the lack of mature street trees or buildings to naturally shade the festival also made it a bit uncomfortable at times. To that end, he expects the softer landscape at Washington Park to make for a great venue for the festival.

Dang says that the benches, chairs and tables in grass area and the fountain steps in Washington Park will make it very easy to find a place to eat food and enjoy the performances offered at AAF. And with Washington Park’s playground, interactive fountains and dog park, it creates a family and dog friendly atmosphere that was simply not possible on Freedom Way.

Along with food, this year’s festival will also feature a human foosball arena where people will be able to hop into an inflatable, life size foosball arena. As it to be expected, there will also be Asian beer, cultural dances, vocalists, and Asian inspired arts and crafts.

Admission to the festival is free, but donations are encouraged. Proceeds from Asian Food Fest are used to support the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati, and to host future Asian cultural events throughout the region.

The festival will take place this Sunday from 11am to 9pm at Washington Park, which is well-served by Metro bus service. There are also dozens of free off-street bicycle parking spaces available, and there are multiple Cincy Red Bike stations within a short walk.

With Membership Rates Set, Cincy Red Bike to Begin Operations Monday

Those eager to sign-up for the region’s first bike share program found out at some point last week that the system was open. It marked the first time anyone was able to purchase annual memberships through Cincy Red Bike, and it also was the first time rates were revealed.

What those early members found out was that annual memberships cost $80 and daily rentals will cost $8. UrbanCincy has revealed that both of these rates are among the highest of B-cycle’s markets, but comparable to the other large cities served by the nation’s largest bike share company.

Part of the benefit for Cincy Red Bike members is the fact that the Cincinnati system is part of B-cycle’s national network. This means that their membership cards will also work in most any of B-cycle’s nearly two-dozen network cities.

B-cycle cities such as Austin, Denver, Fort Worth, Indianapolis and San Antonio all have the same annual membership rates as Cincinnati, but those amounts are slightly higher than the $75 annual fee charged for users in Chicago, Columbus and Washington D.C. where Montreal-based Bixi operates systems.

New York’s Citi Bike, which is also operated by Bixi, is the nation’s most expensive with $95 annual memberships.

In most cases the daily memberships cover an unlimited number of 30-minute rides. Bike share planners say that this is to encourage the use of the bikes for small trips and ensure high turnover.

Cincy Red Bike, however, will be a bit unique in that its $8 daily memberships will allow for an unlimited number of rides up to 60 minutes – making it one of just a handful of cities nationwide. The thought is that the longer ride period will allow for a better customer experience without damaging the performance of the system.

The longer check outs will lead to fewer people who don’t fully understand the pricing structure and therefore accidentally get charged user fees,” explained Cincy Red Bike executive director Jason Barron. “This is good from a customer satisfaction standpoint, but it is also good in that we will spend less time and resources dealing with unhappy customers.”

Those who go over that 60-minute time period will be charged $4 for each additional 30 minutes up to a total of $50 in added charges. Those who do not return the bike at all will be charged $1,200.

Cincy Red Bike locations

As of this point all of the 260 bikes and 30 stations have been put together and installed throughout Downtown and Uptown. Barron says that the system will officially go into operation on Monday, September 15 at 10:30am during a ceremony led by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley (D) at The Banks.

Those who have already purchased memberships will be receiving their cards by mail next week, but Barron says that they can use the system through their membership prior to receiving their card by simply using the credit card tied to their account.

Those who have not yet purchased their memberships can do so online, and are encouraged to download the free B-cycle Now smartphone application to location stations and bike availability.

Episode #40: Fort Washington Way

On the 40th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we are joined by John Schneider. Although he is now widely known for his involvement in rail transit projects, Schneider was also one of the fathers of the massive Fort Washington Way rebuild that began in 1998.

Long-time UrbanCincy readers may remember David Ben‘s four-part series on Fort Washington Way, covering the many forward-thinking decisions made by project planners. A few of these include shrinking the highway’s widthbuilding the Riverfront Transit Centerbuilding new water, sewer, and fiber optic infrastructure, and adding support for “caps” which may be added in the future.

We discuss some alternative plans that were considered, such as rerouting I-71; the limitations that were placed on the project, including the need to reuse the existing Lytle Tunnel tubes; and how the stadiums, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and The Banks came into the picture. Finally, we speculate on the future usage of the Riverfront Transit Center, the future of USBank Arena, and when/if the highway will ever be capped.