Want a meal from Happy Lobster or Pequod’s Pizza or some other Chicago restaurant? DwellSocial answers the call

Sure, flowers and homemade cards are the obvious, maybe even quintessential strategies for celebrating Mother’s Day.

But one local startup is helping Chicago-area communities ring in the holiday — and other days as well — with something a little extra.

This weekend, Chicago-based Do-Rite Donuts, Vanille Patisserie and Bittersweet Pastry Shop will all be offering Mother’s Day specials to Naperville and other suburbs thanks to a small, but far-reaching venture known as DwellSocial.

Active from Libertyville to Tinley Park to Arlington Heights, DwellSocial brings Chicago eateries to collar communities. Maybe you’re hankering to try Smoke BBQ, Pequod’s Pizza or one of those other places you’ve read about in Chicago. You can get something off their menu delivered right to your front door with the help of the startup.

It’s a food delivery service not unlike DoorDash, UberEats or Grubhub but with a twist. Orders are placed at select restaurants days in advance and then driven to customers within a scheduled delivery window. It’s also consciously local, designed to make Chicago spots usually out of the way for suburban customers more accessible from time to time.

So on special days — Mother’s Day, for instance — that candied maple bacon donut from Do-Rite that mom loves or cuisine she’s been dying to try can be delivered right to your front door.

“At the end of the day, most people are going to look at us as a food delivery service,” DwellSocial founder and CEO Allen Shulman said. “But the biggest difference is that we’re bringing them food that they don’t really have access to.”

DwellSocial has been shuffling meals across the Chicago metropolitan area over the past four years. The venture, as it currently operates, emerged out of the COVID-19 pandemic, initially as a means to help restaurants get by as the virus upended the food industry.

“We did it … just to help restaurants out, who were trying to figure out what they were going to do during COVID to stay alive,” Shulman said.

It was adaptive, he added. And not just for Chicago-area restaurants, but for the company itself.

DwellSocial didn’t start out as a food delivery service. While its carryout days started in March 2020, the startup was actually founded in 2017 as a website that dealt in home services.

Originally, the company’s focus was still on Chicago’s suburbs, but rather than supplying communities with ease of access to restaurants, DwellSocial instead sought to cut costs for homeowners needing a contractor — think plumbers, electricians, painters — by aggregating neighborhood demand for a particular service and bringing in one contractor to do multiple jobs in one fell swoop.

But then the pandemic disrupted DwellSocial’s home service model.

“No one was inviting contractors into their homes,” Shulman said.

DwellSocial found itself, like the restaurant industry, needing to shift gears. The pair inadvertently went hand in hand.

“We had already created this very efficient platform, albeit for home services, where we were aggregating demand for these … communities,” Shulman said. “So we just applied this concept of being efficient to (delivering) food.”

During the height of COVID, DwellSocial at first repurposed its aggregation model to act as a go-between for customers and restaurants offering carryout. Instead of delivering straight to customers’ doors, as it does now, DwellSocial would arrange local pickups, where it would fetch meal orders from restaurants, take them to a community parking lot and distribute them to patrons there — aggregate takeout demand, if you will, Shulman said.

Over time, though, DwellSocial evolved home delivery.

Because DwellSocial isn’t an on-demand service, the startup arranges deliveries through “events.” These essentially lay out when different Chicago eateries will be available for delivery through DwellSocial to different suburbs.

Last month, for example, DwellSocial held an “event” in which Pequod’s Pizza — recently dubbed the best pizzeria in the country by Yelp — was delivered into Naperville for a day.

Shulman said DwellSocial has anywhere between 30 to 40 Chicago restaurants available on its platform at any given time, all of which rotate throughout the suburbs.

DwellSocial publicizes local restaurant events through social media and sites such as Patch. When a holiday is coming up, events are often planned around those. But they aren’t always holiday-based. In all, DwellSocial hosts about 200 to 300 events a month between all of the suburbs it serves, Shulman said.

Speaking to DwellSocial demand in Naperville, Shulman said Pequod’s is especially popular. He noted that Naperville is “an interesting community” because it already has a large selection of locally-based restaurants to choose from. But the allure of DwellSocial, he said, is that “it just gives (people) more variety. More choice.”

For a list of DwellSocial events coming to Naperville this month, go to dwell.social/4dwHkSC. This weekend, a Mother’s Day brunch courtesy of Bittersweet Pastry Shop will be available for delivery in Naperville Saturday, followed by Do-Rite Donuts Sunday.