RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – The concept behind Ridgefield resident Chris Candee’s startup is simple: It provides the driver, you provide the car.
It is a concept that can confuse some people. Candee’s company, R.Lucas Drivers, is technically a chauffeur service. But he doesn’t have a fleet of cars, because the driver drives the customer’s car. The business model is not unique, Candee admitted. In Fairfield County, at least two other companies do the same thing.
But in the five months since the company started, Candee has noticed that people prefer to be driven in their own cars. “If you have a nice car you might as well use it and save the money,” he said.
And for $35 an hour, including tip, a customer can have the peace of mind of knowing they have a designated driver and enjoy an evening out, he said. And that driver is on call for the customer for the entire evening.
“I’m constantly amazed at the uses people come up for us,” Candee said. In one job, the parents hired the company to drive their teens to a Yankees game because they didn’t want the teens driving there, he said.
Nearly two-thirds of the jobs are for adults going out for the evening, either into New York City or just out for dinner. The other third is going to and from the airports.
Candee spent most of his professional life in restaurants, watching people put their keys on the bar, have five or seven drinks and then take the keys and leave. So for him, the safety aspect of his business venture was critical. All of his drivers, both in Connecticut and New Jersey, are thoroughly vetted. Each one undergoes a criminal background check, and Candee’s own “courteous driver” exam.
Now, Candee is averaging five to 10 jobs per week. In a year, he said he hopes the company will have expanded into more counties and be taking 40 to 50 jobs a week. “But it’s going to take time to build up the business,” Candee said.