It’s not surprising to find Ashley Loveless Cunningham associated with the term “entrepreneur”—she’s had a knack for business since her days selling candy to classmates in second grade. After successfully launching a colored contact lenses business in high school, she ventured into various business endeavors before finding her niche in the financial industry. She accumulated over 18 years of experience assisting others in building personal credit and achieving financial wellness.

Cunningham launched a coaching business aimed at helping entrepreneurs elevate their brands and achieve financial success by imparting knowledge on financial literacy, payroll management, and accessing working capital—essential elements for any entrepreneur’s journey, and potentially bottlenecking factors for those in underserved communities.

During the pandemic, Cunningham observed the struggles faced by the restaurant industry, particularly in small towns, where establishments grappled with declining sales, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions.

“I’m a very observant person, and I noticed these businesses didn’t have a foundation in place to help them stay open in a crisis,” Cunningham says. “They didn’t have any type of excess funding, whether through an institution or their personal credit, to keep the doors open. I wanted to be able to help not just on the financial side, but I also wanted to help them push more traffic into their stores [post-pandemic].”

Motivated to provide a solution, she conceptualized ChewTyme, a Houston-based food delivery app that debuted in late 2023. ChewTyme not only facilitates seamless restaurant-to-customer deliveries but also offers access to Cunningham’s “Business Credit University,” which provides invaluable resources for financial wellness and growth.

Despite lacking a background in the foodservice industry, Cunningham approached ChewTyme from a consumer’s perspective. Dissatisfied with the excessive costs associated with third-party delivery aggregators, she spent over a year researching and developing ChewTyme to offer a more cost-effective solution for both consumers and restaurants. She also wanted to find a way to help others with her financial expertise in an industry she believes needs it the most.

“I checked my bank statements, and I said ‘woah, this is crazy’,” Cunningham says. “I started looking for a better solution [for restaurants and consumers]. I researched for a good year and a half before I reached out to developers and started building ChewTyme.”

ChewTyme distinguishes itself from competing third-party services by charging a lower commission fee of 17 percent for restaurant delivery orders (compared to other apps, which charge between 20 and 22 percent), with no monthly fee until an operator has been on the platform for two years—a period aligned with Cunningham’s credit-building program. On the consumer side, ChewTyme offers a flat delivery rate of $4.95 and attractive discounts and promotions.

The app functions similarly to other food delivery applications, providing a streamlined ordering process and timely delivery with a notification system in place. However, for local restaurant operators, ChewTyme offers more than just delivery services; it provides access to financial advice and a network of potential lenders, aiding in the establishment of a business credit profile.

“I have built this system to teach and guide business owners, without ever having to leave the app,” Cunningham says. “We match [owners] to a loan specialist within the system, and they can help them analyze their business to figure out what kind of funding they are eligible for.”

Cunningham emphasizes the importance of ChewTyme in helping underrepresented restaurant operators navigate the challenges of the industry and gain access to vital knowledge and resources. She believes that while all restaurants can benefit from the app, those with smaller footprints and new owners stand to gain the most.

“This is to help people grow their revenues but also gain an education and the ability to access funding, and when I was building the app, I wanted to find ways to incorporate my experience in the financial industry,” Cunningham adds. “We hear from a lot of restaurant owners who are just lacking that knowledge, and this system literally walks you through the process.”

Currently available in Houston and Atlanta during its beta phase, ChewTyme has received positive feedback from local restaurants, with users praising its ease of use compared to competitors like DoorDash and Grubhub. As ChewTyme expands to Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; and the Carolinas in the next six months, Cunningham aims to introduce the app to more businesses nationwide through networking events, social media outreach, and a dedicated sales team.

“These restaurants are seeing a profit … and we’re getting a lot out of the feedback as I communicate with our developers,” Cunningham says. “I want it to be user-friendly. I don’t like confusing things, because when I put myself into a customer’s shoes, I don’t want something I feel like immediately clicking off.”

Cunningham envisions ChewTyme as more than just another food delivery company; it’s a platform that prioritizes affordability, user experience, and financial empowerment for both restaurants and consumers. With plans for global expansion in the future, ChewTyme represents a unique opportunity to revolutionize the food delivery industry while fostering financial growth and stability for businesses.

“We’re not just another food delivery company, there’s a different message behind it as I consider things from both the restaurant and consumer side,” Cunningham says. “I figured if I could create an inexpensive, great experience with minimal fees for both and a business credit building aspect included, this would be an appealing opportunity [for everyone].”

Fast Casual, Fast Food, Ordering, Story, Technology, Women in Restaurant Leadership