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Waffle House becomes an unlikely competitor to FedEx and UPS

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Restaurant chain partners with Roadie, a startup described as the 'Uber for package delivery'

mikeporterinmd / Flickr

Waffle House wants in on the sharing economy. The US diner chain today announced a partnership with Roadie, a startup that aims to become the "Uber of package delivery." The app, which launched last month, lets travelers earn money by delivering packages to locations along their routes.

At the moment, users can send packages from within 10 states across the southeast US, and most packages are delivered door to door, but the company is looking to create a network of meeting places for users to hand off deliveries, which is where Waffle House comes in. With today's partnership, users will be able to meet and execute deliveries at the company's 1,750 diners across the US, which are open 24 hours a day. Waffle House will also offer a free waffle and drink to drivers making deliveries at their eateries.

Moving beyond 'bacon and eggs'

"We're just bacon and eggs over here," Walt Ehmer, Waffle House's CEO, tells The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the partnership. "I've been amazed with the explosion of Uber and Airbnb and other technology that kind of enables people to get together and conduct business together."

Roadie takes direct aim at major delivery services like FedEx and UPS, though it's still in its nascent phase. According to the Journal, the app currently has around 7,500 downloads, and around 50 items have been delivered so far. Drivers keep 80 percent of the delivery fee, which currently ranges from $12 to $200, and must pay $1 to cover insurance. Depending on the item, Roadie may be more expensive than FedEx or UPS, but the company says it will be most cost-effective for transporting large packages.

There are also concerns over how the service will be regulated to avoid stolen or damaged packages. Marc Gorlin, Roadie's founder, says both drivers and senders are required to take a photo of the package before and after delivery, to ensure it's in good condition, and both parties must agree not to deliver drugs or other illegal products. The company also keeps a copy of the driver's license on file, and, like Uber, users can track the location of their package in real time. Roadie plans to create its own background check system, as well.