The Food Rush: Delivering High End Plates On Demand

Jul 10 2014

Millennials are seeing food as the new status symbol, and expecting everything on demand. The combination is leading to a new market of tech companies rushing to fulfill their foodie needs.

In our Ypulse Quarterly report trend spotlight, we told you that food is becoming the new status symbol. 52% of Millennials 21-32-years-old would rather go to a food festival than a music festival, and 61% of Millennials ages 21-24 would rather have dinner at a new restaurant than buy a new pair of shoes. Food has been a fixation for the generation for years, but now it’s also becoming a way to show that they are worldly, interesting, and having a coveted experience. Today, sharing a picture of expensive cheeses, a pricey lobster roll eaten on a Tuesday, or a VIP sweet is the equivalent of saying, “I’m so fancy,” and inviting social envy the way a nice bag or jewelry would have ten years ago. As food experiences climb up the wishlists of Millennials, they’re looking for new and easier ways to access them.

At the same time, Millennials are changing the way that luxury is defined: it can mean rarity, convenience, ease of access, material sourcing—all separate from that age-old notion of expense and pretense. Having a smaller indulgent moment in their everyday lives is a part of that blurring definition.

So young consumers are looking for moments of luxury in their everyday and are looking to food to fill that gap. They’ve also been trained to expect things on demand. Seamless has made the concept of clicking a button to order a meal a natural part of their lives; apps like Uber are taking that on-demand expectation even further with car-services that arrive on the touch of a screen. (Uber has even hinted that their future could be in delivering all things on demand.) So it should be no surprise that in this “the Uber of” environment, food/tech companies that deliver high-end food services on demand are beginning to flourish. Where there is opportunity, there is a startup looking to grab consumers’ attention and wallets. TechCrunch is calling food the next big thing in tech. Fortune wrote in April that,  “Food has been very, shall we say, hot among venture capitalists lately. In 2013, VCs poured $2.8 billion into food-related startups.” The food rush is on. Here are three of the gourmet food on demand services that are earning buzz, have plans to grow, and could be poised to change the way that Millennials get their foodie fixes:

Caviar: The Best Restaurants Delivered to Your Door Now

Caviar was founded in 2012 with the mission to “provide access to the city’s best restaurants in the comfort of your home or office, enabled by technology.” Members (anyone can start an account) simply browse a beautifully-designed visual menu, choose the premium restaurant dish that they want to splurge on that day, and click to have it delivered to their door. While clearly piggybacking on Seamless’ online food ordering concept, Caviar distinguishes themselves by offering food from some of the most buzzed about restaurants—dishes you would never imagine you could have delivered to you—and making a bit of the exclusive available to its users. For that service, they charge a flat fee of $9.99 per delivery, on top of the food price. While it sounds pricey, Millennials have no problem ordering with co-workers or friends to split that cost. Caviar also employs their own team of “food messengers” to deliver food instead of relying on the restaurants, which is one of the reasons they are able to get higher-end restaurants to join in. The site is already operational in Manhattan, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C. and is likely to spread to more cities over the next year. They are also continuously adding new hotspot restaurants to their offerings in each location. The startup is Millennial-minded through and through, providing their employees with some seriously Millennial-mindset workplace perks like unlimited sick and vacation days, flexible work hours, and free orders on Caviar. (They warn that this may lead to what they call the “Caviar 15.”) Caviar might add a premium cost to food delivery, but the site and app is providing a luxury service that is clearly increasingly in demand. 

Sprig: Dine on Demand

This growing app is dedicated to delivering “locally-sourced, sustainable, seasonal meals” straight to consumers—high quality food, on demand, at an affordable price. The menu on Sprig changes daily, and according to the app’s description, “meals cost just $9 for lunch or $10 for dinner, and are crafted in San Francisco by executive chef Nate Keller.” That “hand crafted” detail is an important part of Sprig’s sell. They’re not just “lunch and dinner on demand,” they’re the best ingredients, prepared by a “personal chef” with care. A far cry from some General Tao’s chicken eaten out of a Styrofoam container. Three different meals are offered each day (helpful for any indecisive customers), and include one entrée and a few sides. Of course, a vegetarian and gluten-free option are always available. Meals are ordered through Sprig’s app, and the delivery cost is a flat $2 for food delivered within 20 minutes. Currently, the startup is offering their services to limited areas of San Francisco, but Sprig raised $10 million in funding this March to help to fund their expansion. Some impressive tech names are behind the app: co-founder Gaga Biyani was part of online education site Udemy’s founding team and an advisor to Lyft, and founding executive chef Nate Keller was the executive chef at Google for years. Sprig’s ambitions are big, as Keller told Fast Company, “Everyone should be able to eat a great meal made with real ingredients, and we won’t stop until we’ve made that possible for anyone who wants it.”

Munchery: Put Your Dinner in Good Hands

Have you heard of the largest take-out restaurant in the Bay Area? Since launching in San Francisco, Munchery has grown by 20% each month, delivering over 5,000 meals per day on average with customers typically ordering three to four times per month. The premise is simple: prepared gourmet meals that answer the question “what’s for dinner?” with easy and better options. Food is handmade by chefs in the area with local, organic, and sustainable ingredients used wherever possible. Same-day and scheduled deliveries make Munchery a God-send for busy professionals and parents, able to choose from new menu items that are ready to heat and eat once in the door. The site’s options, including entrées, sides, desserts, and kid-friendly meals, often sell out by 5pm and are surprisingly reasonable in price, averaging $8-$12 for an entrée. Munchery doesn’t stop there with the benefits, building sustainability and charity into its business model by donating money and planting trees for each meal it sells and delivers. Even the delivery drivers are vetted at a higher caliber than usual, working part-time and often specializing in one area to become its local Munchery connect. Munchery raised an additional $28 million in funding this past spring and plans to launch in up to 20 cities in the coming year. As it expands to new cities, Seattle currently being in the works, Munchery aims to keep its local flair, finding chefs, a delivery fleet, and food sources that represent the area for meals that taste like home.