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Waffle House stakes out turf in the sharing economy

Waffle House, a coffee-counter concept that hasn’t generated gasps with its tech innovations to date, is pairing up with the latest in app-based sharing, a new service that’s equal parts eBay and Uber.

The venerable southern chain announced this week that it will become a brick-and-mortar participant in Roadie, a new service that helps consumers send packages by finding fellow consumers driving toward the target destination.  In exchange for a small fee, the drivers cart the item to the sender or another driver.

The Roadie app in effect tracks a path for the package to get from the shipper to recipient using the civilian drivers.  Waffle House has agreed to become a rendezvous spot for people serving as links in that chain. The drivers will be given a free soda at any of the 1,750 Waffle Houses that are now in operation across 25 states. Most are open 24 hours. Consumers who download the Roadie app will get a free waffle.

The arrangement in effect gives some consumers another reason to come into a Waffle House.  It also makes the chain what the first Roadie Roadhouse—an official rendezvous spot—in the new service’s neighbor-to-neighbor shipping network.

"For the last 60 years, Waffle House has been a place for travelers and a preferred meeting place for our customers," said Walt Ehmer, Waffle House’s CEO. "Roadie combines the two, making it easy for senders and drivers who love waffles to meet at the nearest Waffle House.”

Roadie’s is backed by a blue-ribbon group of venture capitalists, including Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google.

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