Uber Eats feeds our appetites, expands Phoenix businesses

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'[With Uber Eats], you don’t have to drive by that strip mall to see [Base Pizzeria]; you can order food.' '[With Uber Eats], you don’t have to drive by that strip mall to see [Base Pizzeria]; you can order food.'

It’s a common question that he’s answered a million times. "What brought you to America, and Phoenix, Arizona?"  Russ Lukje’s quick response, “A blonde in a bar to be honest!”

Just don’t confuse his sister and business partner, Carlee Lukje, as his wife.

“I wasn't there, so I've got no comment on how they met," she said.

This brother and sister duo from Australia knew they wanted to do something different in the volatile restaurant business. They and their spouses all ditched the corporate world and came to Arizona. That’s when they started the organic pizza powerhouse simply named Base Pizzeria two and a half years ago. It sits in a strip mall with killer views just west of Lincoln Drive and 32nd Street

"There are a lot of transplants from New York and Chicago; we really wanted to focus on local ingredients, local providers," Russ said. "Everything we do we wanted to be organic and fresh."

And it's worked brilliantly as the Aussies tend to say, even if you do see some empty tables from time to time. But that’s when Carlee jumped at an early offer from a familiar ride-share business.

"We were going to test them for a month and within three or four days, we knew it was going to fit nicely in our business," Lukje explained. "By the end of the first week, we added an additional day to our business revenue-wise.”

The game-changer she's referring to is a little tablet behind the bar. Uber Eats, the food delivery service that launched in the Valley just over a year ago, has kept Base's signature yellow-tiled wood-burning pizza oven jumping.

"One of the beauties about it is that we have a 700-degree pizza oven behind us. And that pizza comes out hot and fresh and one of the good things about the app is that you can see where the driver is. So, if they are getting delayed or running behind we can wait and fire that pizza," Russ said. "So literally when that driver is walking into the door we give them that pizza and it's getting to our guests much quicker."

And when his sister told him the numbers from the Uber Eats orders, did he really believe her?

“Well, I was working the floor so absolutely!” Russ answered with a laugh.

The app works just like calling for a ride except you find the type of food you like and where you want to order from. It started out small for the nation’s fifth largest city, says the general manager of Uber Eats Arizona, Clay Carroll.

“We had a little over 100 restaurants; that was about a year and a half ago," Carroll recalls. "We have well over 500 restaurants now. But as you can imagine there is a lot of demand for the food delivery space. And we are looking to add as many restaurants as we possibly can."

They’ve scaled the business five times over in just 18 months here in Phoenix. Uber just released its global numbers and they're huge -- 200 American cities, 30 different countries after launching in only one city -- Toronto, Canada -- just two years ago.

The culture of convenience is rapidly changing our dining experience.

[RELATED: New Uber Eats study reveals America’s eating habits]

“A company like Base Pizzeria [is] a great niche, a pizza company in a strip mall there," Carroll said. "[With Uber Eats], you don’t have to drive by that strip mall to see them; you can order food. You can now order from the comfort of your home. For the businesses, the convenience of the app is really opening up and expanding the number of people who see their restaurant or their menu."

“It’s been a good partnership for Base," Lukje said. " We obviously have not sunk any additional costs into it. We are already here. We are already running the lights. We have the staff on. So really the only additional costs to us are the food and it fit really nicely." 

[MAP: Base Pizzeria, 3115. E. Lincoln Drive]

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