By Rick Malwitz
When Chris Candee was in the restaurant business, he would occasionally observe someone down five, six, seven drinks, pick up his car keys and drive away, endangering himself and all others on the road.
Today Candee has a solution to that dangerous problem: Hire his company and he will supply a driver for you. The driver will ferry you and your friends around town, to dinner, theater, a bar – doing it all in your car – and return you to your door.
His company, R. Lucas Drivers, offers a service to residents of Monmouth County: a driver will come to a home, park his car and then drive the client in his or her own car.
The company charges fixed rates for various locations throughout the county, such as trips to Atlantic City and the area’s three major airports. For example, from Middletown to Newark Airport is $59 and to JFK Airport $105. For other trips he charges $35 per hour, with a three-hour minimum. The price includes taxes and gratuities. The customer pays for gas and tolls.
Candee calls it a “virtual business.”
“I don’t own a fleet of cars or limousines. There are no capital expenses,” he explained. His largest expense is insurance.
He has a roster of drivers who are retired, semiretired or work full time. “I’m using them in their spare time,” he explained.
Candee said those drivers are carefully screened, with criminal background and driving record checks. For every 10 potential driver inquires, he said he accepts about one. “I rely a lot on feedback. Are the drivers courteous? Do they show up on time?” he said.
Recently he received an inquiry from a Colts Neck resident who wanted a driver to take a group of young people to a Sunday night baseball game at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The group was taken from their home to the ballpark. After the game, the driver picked them up at the stadium (without having to pay a parking fee), and drove them safely home.
Customers prefer being driven in their own cars for various reasons, Candee said. They know it is a safe vehicle, they may have a child’s car seat in place or they find it more convenient to pack luggage in their own car.
According to the company website, rlucasdrivers.com, a recent user was Dale Romans, a successful horse trainer who trained Shackleford, the winner of 2011 Preakness. When he went to dinner in Manhattan he had one of Candee’s drivers drive his car, in effect bringing his office with him.
“The seats of my Mercedes are as organized as any file cabinet,” Romans explained.
Candee, 41, spent much of his life working in the restaurant business. When he was 10, his father and uncle purchased a restaurant and Candee worked his way up from busboy to manager.
Then in his 30s, Candee was diagnosed with cancer and for three years his life revolved around treatments. Though he is now cancer-free, one of the side effects of his chemotherapy is an inability to stand for long periods of time. “In the restaurant business you stand all the time.”
Candee drove for a similar service and in April he began R. Lucas in Monmouth County. (Lucas is the name of his son. R is the first letter of the name of his business partner’s son.)
He explained that his best advertising is word-of-mouth.
Recently, he received an assignment in an unusual way. He was about to be anesthetized for a medical procedure when his doctor inquired about a driving job. “I had to tell him I was a little too groggy to talk,” Candee said. “When I came to, we made the arrangements.’’
Additional information about R. Lucas Drivers is available at rlucasdrivers.com or by calling 877-758-2271.