Wheel Deliver in Pittsburgh claims it will reopen, but partner restaurants are still owed thousands of dollars

Wheel Deliver may be returning to the road.

A sign on the door of the Squirrel Hill location of Wheel Deliver says the restaurant meal delivery business is reopening next week with new owners.

According to sources, staff has bought the operation from Steven Makoroff, who has owned the business for more than 20 years. But some former participating restaurant owners say they are reluctant to reinstate the relationship since the company hasn’t settled outstanding debt. 

One of Pittsburgh’s oldest independent restaurant delivery services -— founded by Tom Baron, now of Big Burrito, and Mike Hanley of Fuel and Fuddle and Burgatory — Wheel Deliver has been closed for more than a week. Since the closing, a handful of partner restaurants claim they haven’t been paid for thousands of dollars worth of orders, and residents holding Wheel Deliver gift cards are trying to determine whether they’ll be reimbursed or if Wheel Deliver will actually reopen. 

Since Wheel Deliver started, the market has become more competitive, with UberEATS debuting in Pittsburgh in May, the latest in a string of delivery services that include GrubHub, Postmates and OrderUp, as well as the Lawrenceville-based Happy Bellies. 

“I’m at a loss,” says Ron Lee, owner of Spice Island in Oakland, who’s been working with Wheel Deliver for the last 20 years. He says he’d heard that the business was reopening but hadn’t been contacted by the company about reinstating the partnership or paying off what he’s owed, which falls between $2,500 and $3,000, several weeks of orders.

In previous years, Mr. Lee says Wheel Deliver had cut a check for deliveries every five days or so. Over the past year, “it keeps getting stretched out,” from two to three weeks, with checks bouncing. 

“There are so many restaurants in this situation,” he says, noting that he’s been in touch with other restaurant owners about how they should proceed, including the owners of Ali Baba in Oakland. One restaurant owner says he had heard from Mr. Makoroff in the past week, who says he has committed to settling the debt.

The Wheel Deliver website has been updated with this announcement: “Gossips and Misreporting About Wheel Deliver's Death are Greatly Exaggerated,” attributed to “Not Mark Twain.”  Nov. 8 is listed as the reopening date, along with a note that reads: “We have enjoyed serving Pittsburgh's East End since 1989 and we plan to be around another 28 years.”

The business is promising a 50 percent discount on orders in November.

Mr. Makaroff has not responded to calls and emails from the Post-Gazette. 

Melissa McCart: mmccart@post-gazette.com; Instagram @postgazettefood







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