Owner/Operator Calvin Willis had an idea to open a sandwich shop in Warrensville Heights, Ohio called No Fork — offering food you don't need to eat with utensils. They opened their first location in an office building, serving their dishes in the building's cafeteria.
Word about their tasty dishes spread, and they generated social media buzz with their vibrant TikTok and Instagram accounts. Today, they also operate their own brick-and-mortar restaurant location and have expanded their menu to include smashburgers, salmon tenders, chicken parmesan sandwiches, po'boys, French toast, and more.
Focused on self-funding
Calvin and his wife proudly self-fund No Forks, using their own savings to finance the operation from the beginning. "All of our financing came from our piggy banks. We were saving, saving, saving," explained Calvin.
It was business as usual until the COVID-19 pandemic. Once remote work became the norm, No Fork took a major hit. Located in a large office building with regular foot traffic, the company saw a decrease in sales. "That building had about 700 people working in it, and we were doing pretty well. But then everyone went to work from home, and it kind of hasn't recovered," said Calvin.
At the original No Fork location, they quickly pivoted to focus on off-premise dining, partnering with DoorDash to bring in revenue through Marketplace, with DashPass and Pickup, as well as Storefront, a commission-free online ordering system with no monthly fees where restaurants only pay payment card processing fees of 2.9% of the total transaction amount + $0.30 per order. They have also run Promotions to drive sales and reach new customers. The partnership helped Calvin get the business back on track, and today, No Fork brings in about 60% of their overall sales on DoorDash.
But even in good times, all restaurant operators know there will always be unexpected challenges. In May, Calvin discovered that one of their walk-in coolers was broken. This piece of equipment is essential to keeping a restaurant running, but costs thousands of dollars. Calvin needed to figure out how he was going to pay for this major expense fast.
The right offer at the right time
In a perfect coincidence, Calvin remembered he had received an email just a few days earlier about DoorDash Capital, which provides fair and convenient financing to help restaurants grow and maintain their business. With Capital, eligible DoorDash partners can accept a pre-approved offer, then receive funds in as little as 1-2 business days. Restaurants can then use the funding on their business in a variety of ways — from paying their employees, to opening a new location, or in Calvin's case, upgrading equipment.
Operators simply pay a one-time flat fee, and then payments will be automatically deducted as a percentage of their DoorDash sales. Recipients can choose the size of the advance and can also choose to pay it early. Payment periods are typically 6-9 months.
Calvin reviewed his pre-approved DoorDash Capital offer, which was up to $10,000 — enough to cover the cost of a new cooler. "It was right on time," he said. "It was a quick decision." Calvin accepted the offer and used the money to hire a repairman and pay for a new cooler that week.
The best thing about DoorDash Capital is they take it from our daily sales, so it's not like we have to send a big check.
Fair, flexible terms
For Calvin, who had never accepted outside financing for No Fork before, the terms of the DoorDash Capital cash advance were much easier to manage than a traditional loan from a bank. "With DoorDash, the process of taking the money was harmless," he said. "It was a fair deal, and I felt safe doing it."
With so much of No Fork's sales coming from DoorDash, payment was easy. "I knew we'd be able to pay it off fast, because we do a lot of business with DoorDash," he explained. "It was a no-brainer."
Calvin appreciated that DoorDash Capital provided the right amount, with the right terms. He was able to easily cover the cost of the cooler without having to borrow more money than he needed or dip into his personal savings. He also liked that the funding arrived so quickly and without a lengthy application process.
I was like, 'Okay I'm in a bind here, but I can get this $10,000 really quickly from DoorDash Capital, then get a new cooler up and running by the weekend.'
DoorDash Capital helps restaurants track their payment progress in the Merchant Portal. "They're really good about letting you know how everything is going," noted Calvin.
DoorDash Capital was the best thing that could have happened to me at the time.
Calvin was astounded that the entire process took just a few days. In his case, once he submitted the application, he was approved within the hour, then received the money the next morning. "I'm really raving about [DoorDash Capital] because it was all seamless," he said. "I don't have anything negative to say about it — it was just really a good experience. I'd give DoorDash a 10 out of 10."
Plans for expansion
For Calvin, honesty is more important than the money when it comes to choosing a financing partner. "Everything that DoorDash said they'd do, they did. That's a company with integrity." Because of this experience, Calvin said he's very likely to use DoorDash Capital again if he ever needed it in the future.
While he doesn't have the details nailed down yet, Calvin says his goal is to continue expanding the restaurant to new locations so he can share his beloved recipes with even more people. "I want there to be a No Fork on every corner, like McDonald's," he said. "As long as we keep the traction up, I feel like we can get people to buy into it because it's a beautiful concept."
Hero photo credit: Parnissis Photography