Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?
If the Deer Park-based company Late Night Chauffeurs has its way, it would be one of its drivers — in your own car.
The 1984 song “Drive” by The Cars poses this very question that many customers of the designated driving service ask themselves, its founders say.
Daniel Cantelmo and John Yancigay launched Late Night Chauffeurs, which dispatches drivers to pick you up and drive your car home, in December 2015, in part to help deter drunken driving.
As summer begins, the best friends and business partners, both 30, are gearing up for their busiest time of the year. As the temperatures increase, so too does the demand for their services, especially in Long Beach, Huntington and Jones Beach.
Cantelmo and Yancigay say by putting their own spin on the typical taxi or ride-hailing service, they are able to square up against their competition, including Uber and Lyft.
Customers are willing to hand over their keys because a one-way trip home with Late Night Chauffeurs after first driving themselves to the destination can be cheaper than round-trip fare, the founders say.
The appeal of their service is simple: “It all comes down to, people want their car in the driveway in the morning,” said Yancigay, who lives in Farmingdale.
The founders require that all drivers pass a criminal and motor vehicle background check before being hired. Customers are covered by the company’s insurance in the event of an accident, and the founders said there have been no incidents.
Their reach extends from Montauk to Manhattan. The business services all five boroughs, Westchester County and parts of Connecticut and New Jersey.
“We saw this concept in the Napa Valley, where they fold up a scooter and put it in the customer’s car while they drive home,” said Cantelmo, a Patchogue resident. “They then take the scooter out and drive to the next pickup.”
The men said for safety and logistical reasons, they modified the business model to incorporate a chase car instead of a scooter.
Cantelmo and Yancigay have been friends since nursery school and said when they started Late Night Chauffeurs, they did it all. They worked as drivers, handled advertising and booked reservations. Now, they have taken the backseat to driving and instead oversee the operation. Three-quarters of their 160 drivers work on Long Island.
After two and a half years of the chauffeur business, they recently started Qwik Ride, a free app-based shuttle service, that hit the road in Patchogue Village in May. Their fleet of five six-seat shuttles encourage drivers to park farther away from Main Street to free up parking and take a shuttle sponsored by local businesses to their destination. They plan to expand Qwik Ride to Huntington in mid-July. Tips are recommended for drivers of either of their services, who are paid hourly.
Cantelmo and Yancigay have partnered with performance venues and restaurants such as Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh and The Paramount in Huntington, as well as restaurants across the Island such as Prime in Huntington, Monsoon in Babylon and Tellers in Islip to have Late Night Chauffeurs be the recommended means of transport. Most customers arrange pickups in advance, the pair said, and much of their business is the result of referrals. They are also a popular means of transport for wedding guests.
Rides start at $28 and average between $50 and $60 for a 20- to 25-minute ride. A trip from The Paramount to Massapequa costs about $65, for example. The company operates Sunday to Wednesday from noon to 1 a.m. and Thursday to Saturday from noon to 3 a.m. Reservations are recommended but not required unless rides are requested during off hours.
Danielle Famiglietti, 42, is a repeat customer of Late Night Chauffeurs. Her first trip, two months ago, from Farmingdale to her home in Wantagh was arranged the same day. Most recently, Famiglietti said she made a reservation for a ride home from her brother-in-law’s wedding in Roslyn, costing her $50.
“I had my children with me and needed to ensure an accurately timed ride home,” Famiglietti said. “I like being able to drive myself, my family and my friends places and have the ability to drink responsibly because I know I can count on them to pick me up.”
Famiglietti said she has never used Uber or Lyft because she would never put her children — who are ages 7 and 9 — in a stranger’s car.
“I feel much safer in my own car,” she said.