The concept was so simple that Dusty Stutsman nearly overlooked its significance.
Stutsman, a Colorado native, recalls years ago visiting a friend who went to college in Ann Arbor, Mich., and ordering food from a website that showed all types of local joints.
“At the time, I didn’t think anything of it,” he told Noozhawk.
On the flight back home to Colorado State University, however, Stutsman began to realize how easy and stress-free the dining experience had been.
He shared the concept with Bryan Brand, a friend at a New York school who he kept in touch with from their days at Santa Barbara City College.
So begins the story of how SBMenus.com was formed four years ago, at which time Stutsman and Brand ventured back to Santa Barbara and established an online food-ordering business that now features takeout or delivered cuisine from more than 50 restaurants between Isla Vista and Carpinteria.
The young co-founders — Stutsman is 27 and Brand 26 — are seeing their most successful gains to date. SBMenus.com doubled the number of online-ordering restaurants in 2011 from 2010 and added 20 restaurants in the past six months alone. In 2012, the site facilitated more than 73,000 online orders, totaling more than $1.3 million in sales. Site visits were up 35 percent, and page views saw a 40 percent bump.
The small start-up notched another milestone eight months ago by moving from a home office into a workspace in downtown Santa Barbara’s Victoria Court.
“This place is great,” Stutsman said, sitting with Brand in the office given a laid-back feel with hanging bicycles, a ping-pong table and two friendly dogs.
Stutsman and Brand pride themselves on the streamlined, “real-time” aspect of the site, which constantly updates restaurant hours and information.
Online food foragers can search by category, browse reviews and popular items and get in on special deals offered exclusively through SBMenus.com.
Frequent customers can even see their previous orders from a particular restaurant, effectively creating their own “usual” that’s recalled with a credit card number instead of a face.
Brand said individual or group office orders are merely clicks away and can be made in advance, say if someone wants to try ordering lunch from a busy place such as South Coast Deli.
“There’s a line, guaranteed,” Brand said. “If you order online, you walk up to a separate line. You’re never put on hold.”
The online entrepreneurs, who created NightOut.com as a spin-off of SBMenus two years ago, are hopeful to continue the upward business trend by doubling the number of restaurants in 2013 and possibly letting customers use more than one credit card per order.
They’re grateful they didn’t quit the business before they finally turned a profit 18 months into the venture and optimistic they will continue to expand.
“This site and service is applicable to any demographic,” Brand said. “Everyone is hungry.”