Students Past and Present Start Food Delivery Service
By Cameron Monteith
Social distancing and quarantine have led to the increased usage of services like GrubHub and DoorDash. However, students living in Pittsburgh without a steady source of income may find themselves unable to access these options. Enter the student-founded food delivery service “Chutoro.”
Chutoro is a “restaurant subscription” service, offering a seven-day menu delivered in bulk at a set time throughout the week. Jay Qin, a student in the Tepper School of Business, came up with the idea after quarantining became mandatory.
“I was getting sick and tired of cooking food myself, and delivery food is not an option, but a luxury,” said Qin. “If current food delivery is like a taxi service, then Chutoro is the bus or the subway option.”
According to Qin customers are able to receive their food in bulk as a cheaper, safer option to going out to eat.
The Chutoro operation is run by a small coalition of Carnegie Mellon University students and alumni. Programmers from the School of Computer Science, a design student from the College of Fine Arts, and others working together through Zoom calls and Facebook messages to keep the service together.
Grace Wong, an alumna of the BXA Intercollege Degree Program who studied fine arts and global systems management, is promoting Chutoro and helping connect restaurants to spread positive word about the service.
Wong attests to the opportunities CMU provided for her, which prepared her not only for her future career, but also to accept any change as it comes.
“Communicating with classmates on projects and internships I held through CMU during my time there helped build my communication skills and work ethic,” said Wong. “I’m glad to be able to work with former and current students at my previous home.”
Chutoro itself is a type of sashimi that is commonly served in Japan; however, Wong explains the underlying meaning of trust behind the company name.
“There's an inherent trust in having a chef, a stranger, in serving a raw dish to a customer,” said Wong. “For the consumers, we want them to feel that chefs are preparing food that is safe to eat. For chefs, we want them to know that our mission behind food delivery is about helping small businesses.”
Grace Wong believes food is not just a way of life, but a way of living.
“Social distancing has led people to feeling more isolated than ever,” said Wong. “Eating is about community, and we are trying to tap into that gap when everyone is as distant as ever.”
Qin and Grace have tried to spread the importance of community through the hashtag #6FeetTogether, seeking to emphasize the all-encompassing nature of the pandemic – that everyone and anyone could get sick.
“I think there’s nothing really like this,” said Wong. “Because the pandemic is so uncertain, and we don’t know when this is going to end, our community and the ways we interact are going to become more important than ever.”
As the business grows, Chutoro seeks to reach more students and more restaurants. Right now, Jay is the only driver on scheduled routes to students around CMU.
“We are not here to make money, but to provide for the community,” Qin says. “We operate on the classic quote ‘See a need, fill a need.”
Wong believes “Even though we can’t see each other, we all have to make lemonade out of lemons.”