Behind the scenes with this Charlotte microbiologist who created a food delivery service

During a time when public health is top of mind, TakeNow Delivery is adding a bit of science to ensure food safety.
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Living under North Carolina’s “Safer at Home” ordinance in response to the coronavirus pandemic has slowed dine-in visits to most local restaurants. The use of food delivery services is conveniently connecting residents to some of their favorite eateries. During a time when public health is top of mind, TakeNow Delivery is adding a bit of science to ensure food safety.  

Local microbiologist-turned-entrepreneur Samuel Hanna is the man behind the Charlotte-based food delivery service established nearly a decade ago. TakeNow distinguished itself by using double-insulated bags that keeps food warm up to 45 minutes. Hanna says that’s three times longer than the length of time food stays hot in a typical delivery bag.  

“As a microbiologist, it’s hard for people initially to make that connection [between food and science],” Hanna shared. “For myself, I’ve seen where my science background definitely helped out. When I was sourcing to design the bags, there were certain qualities I knew they should have to help with food quality.”

His attention to detail doesn’t stop there. Hanna incorporated his love for UNC Chapel Hill — where he earned a master’s degree in epidemiology — to develop and maintain a team of “mobile food waiters.” They arrive at your door dressed in the company’s equivalent of a uniform: a combination of a collared Carolina blue shirt, khaki pants, and, depending on their level of tenure with the agency, an apron. 

The dress code idea stems from an unfortunate assault experience. During undergrad at UNC Charlotte, Hanna was mugged, along with a pizza delivery driver, by two attackers while visiting his then-girlfriend’s apartment. He never forgot the incident and knew that the customer’s ability to easily identify his team would add a sense of safety.

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As for business operations, Hanna gleaned lessons from childhood observations of his parents as they operated the family’s seafood delivery company in his native Florence, South Carolina.    

“We’re a little different than what people expect from food delivery,” Hanna said, reflecting on his journey. “When I started in this industry, food delivery was not a well-understood concept, so you had to be fairly creative and imaginative about what a food company could be…there were no boundaries.”

The formula has served him well. TakeNow gradually expanded its services to include contract deliveries for over 200 restaurants and caterers within the Southeast, online marketing options for a host of restaurant partners, and vendor opportunities with the City of Charlotte.

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PopBar Charlotte co-owner Kia Lyons (left) with TakeNow Delivery founder Samuel Hanna. PopBar recently signed on as a restaurant vendor with TakeNow. Photo: QCity Metro

As a small business that employs four backend staff and a dozen drivers, TakeNow hasn’t been immune to the pandemic’s adverse economic impact. 

“We are blessed as a company to continue most of our operations, but a lot of our partnerships with employers in Charlotte have stalled out,” he explained. “Many of the things that companies would do for their employees — events, catering, etc. — that was an area we’ve grown over the years that looks different now that so many are working from home.”

He’s adjusted by adding a video marketing arm to his business, designed to help members of the food industry broaden their customer base.  

Hanna described his marketing philosophy:

“I try to look at it from my perspective. I’m very regimented about the food I eat, and it usually takes quite a bit for me to try a new place. If I’m a customer, I’d like to know something about the inside of the restaurants, the owners, the management team, maybe their favorite dishes so I know what to order the first time. We’re trying to bridge that gap for our restaurant partners.”

Having benefited from the support of many along his journey, including local entities like Mechanics & Farmers Bank and the Women’s Business Center of Charlotte, Hanna believes firmly in leveraging his position for the benefit of others. He’s also emphasizing the importance of collaboration among Black businesses. 

“It is important that we show the greater community that our businesses are of value. If we can’t do so, then it is expecting too much for other communities to do it for us.“   

While Hanna deeply values all of TakeNow’s partners, he takes particular pride in a newly formed partnership with local favorite PopBar Charlotte. He hopes the relationship blooms into greater representation from other Black-owned restaurants in Charlotte that are willing to partner with TakeNow.

PopBar co-owner Kia Lyons said Hanna fills a unique niche in the food delivery space due to his commitment to the community and connections within the government and corporate sectors.

“He gets a lot of things with the city and brings his customers in to fulfill those orders,” she said. “Anytime you have an opportunity to work with another Black business, support each other, and spread the word for others — I think we should always do that. You have to have a network of people that you support and that support you.”

To his colleagues of color within the food industry, Hanna has a broader message. “I would encourage everyone to let go of what you knew pre-Covid and the current social movement. I even tell my employees: let’s take the opportunity to put yourself out there, adapt, be responsive to the current environment, and know that there are many people of different backgrounds and communities wanting to work with minority businesses.”

More details

Order at takenowfood.com or through the TakeNow Delivery app

Hours of operation: 

  • Monday through Friday: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday: 3 to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday: 2 to 7 p.m.

Minimum order: $12.99, split-ticket ordering available

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