Life is busy.

And the number of online options in the lakes area presenting time-saving convenience is growing, and perhaps offering a way to reduce at least one area of stress.

Instacart, (which is featured in Tech Savvy this week) offers grocery delivery from Costco and Cub Foods and is one of the new offerings as of this summer. Another new service that started last week is Food Dudes.

Food Dudes offers delivery from certain restaurants in the community that don't have that delivery feature on their own.

As of Friday, Aug. 31, five restaurants are part of the service in the Brainerd area, with more expected as additions in the near future.

Travis Schaar, Food Dudes delivery manager, said they started gauging the interest here in April and found restaurants and customers were receptive to the idea. Starting here, in a micropolitan instead of a metro area, is kind of a test market Schaar said, to see if the business model works in smaller cities. Other Food Dudes locations include Fargo, N.D., St. Cloud and Sioux Falls, S.D. To start, Food Dudes picked a 15 mile radius around Brainerd International Raceway.

Food Dudes founder David Carlson started the business in St. Cloud 11 years ago, Schaar said, and adding the Brainerd area marks the 23rd location. While the summer population bump that is part of Brainerd lakes area living is attractive, Schaar said the winter months are strong for restaurant food delivery.

As of late last week, participating restaurants in the area included Black Bear Lodge, CherryBerry, Sage on Laurel, Sawmill Inn and Zorbaz on the Lake.

Customers use the service by going to FoodDudesDelivery.com, picking the restaurant of their choice and opening the menu.

Once the meal or meals are chosen, a date is selected for as soon as possible or a later delivery time, such as meals for an office meeting later in the week. Then customers enter the delivery address. The Dispatch tried the service last week with an order of frozen yogurt from CherryBerry in Baxter. In short order, an email arrived to confirm the order and welcome us to the service. The order itself arrived in less than an hour. A nearly $40 order for four people came with a delivery fee of $5.99 and a gratuity of $7.37. The individual orders ranged from about $6 to about $9.50. Delivery fees of $5.99 to $8.99 are set depending on distance and Schaar said that could change as they adjust to the market and how busy the delivery service is here. And, he said, they plan to continue to add restaurants to the service with talks ongoing for several more as of last week.

Schaar said the order for delivery goes to Food Dudes first to ensure there is a driver available and then goes to the menu offerings for delivery. Schaar said he recently took an order from Sage on Laurel to Roundhouse Brewery in Brainerd and people were surprised and enthusiastic that such a service was available to them here. Last week, a table tent display marketing the Food Dudes at Sage was one of the first notices of their presence in Brainerd. Schaar said they started with a quiet entry into the community.

"We just kind of tiptoed into town," Schaar said.

Once ordered, the food is picked up and transported in an insulated, structured food-delivery bag.

As the service moved into the lakes area, Schaar said they wanted to be sure to have enough drivers available and they expect to hire another five to 10 drivers going forward. Schaar said the restaurant food delivery options have been popular with college kids.

For Schaar, it's been interesting to meet with restaurant partners here and try their food, noting he enjoyed the homemade flavor of meals at the Sawmill Inn.

"We just want to be able to bring that to people's tables," Schaar said.

Schaar said people are willing to pay for convenience and the delivery service provides an opportunity for people to stay in the comfort of their home and order the restaurant food they enjoy.

"That's one less thing they have to worry about," Schaar said.

The plan now is to add to the restaurant list and hire more drivers in preparation for winter as a way to over staff to provide a better customer service.

"If it gets cold, people order," Schaar said. "It's neat to be able to bring that sort of service to a smaller area like this."

Schaar said Food Dudes Delivery now has 400 restaurant partners in 23 locations with 400-500 delivery drivers.

In the restaurant takeout food delivery pantheon, with players that may be more familiar such as Grubhub or the Canadian version known as Skip the Dishes, Schaar said Food Dudes is smaller but growing quickly.

Businesses, medical facilities and schools are anticipated to be customer sources as people can order meals in groups, or for other occasions like party planning. There aren't limits on how many orders may be placed, although large orders are advised to order 24 hours ahead to give the restaurant a heads-up.

The driver delivering the Dispatch order from CherryBerry is a nursing student at Central Lakes College. Akhsa Malinskaya said the delivery job was a good one to fit in her college schedule. She selects a time when she's available to drive and then gets a notification on her phone when an order comes in. She said she can study and then be ready for a delivery when needed. Customers can leave written directions for the driver and the order when placing it-like adding names to the individual orders to help with the group sorting or how to make deliveries to businesses when the doors are locked after regular business hours.

So now the lakes area has more options to get restaurant food delivered beyond the pizza and sandwich shops, adding steaks, entrees, soups and burgers to the menu available by answering the door.

Giovanni's Pizza in Brainerd announced on Facebook it is closing after a long run in the city.

"With a heavy heart the Brainerd Giovanni's Pizza Family is announcing that we will be closing our doors on Saturday, Sept. 8th. The search for new ownership has begun. The Jackson family has chosen to take a different path in life and is moving from the Brainerd area. We would like to thank everyone for their support and patronage over the years. We will be running daily specials next week until we close. Thank you, Travis Jackson."

The Minnesota Department of Revenue is partnering with the Department of Economic Development to offer the class Launching Your Small Business in September.

"In this class, experts in small business and business ownership cover feasibility of your business idea, business plan basics, legal requirements, and basic financing. Hear about the basics of sales and use tax and receive helpful resources from the Minnesota Department of Revenue," the revenue department reported in a news release. "Discover the value of networking to grow your business,"

To register for this class, go to Events at the WorkForce Center on the DEED website and select the class hyperlink listed under Monday, Sept. 17, 2018.

Larry Villella, president and founder of Villella Products Co. and former resident of Pequot Lakes, was issued a patent for a Sewer Skewer XL sewer vent defroster. The XL notes the products extra long length. The product prevents rooftop sewer vents from freezing up using copper conductive technology and sun's warmth to work in sub-zero weather to work in temperatures as cold as 25 below. Villella now makes his home in Pelican Rapids.