Does food delivery need to be disrupted?
Can technology make it possible for busy families to eat healthy, affordable meals? Some people think so.
Anson Tsui and Steven Hsiao are a couple of smarty-pants Cal grads, already known as the kings of late-night food delivery for UC Berkeley.
After graduating in 2009, they started what can only be described as an empire of "late night stoner food delivery" businesses. Under the Late Night Option umbrella, Pho Me Now, and later Munchy Munchy Hippos (deep-fried twinkies and bacon-wrapped hotdogs, nuff said) and Burrito Supreme delivered greasy junk food to UC students in the wee hours for four happy years.
But Peter Pans sometimes grow up, and the Late Night Option dream is over. Tsui and Hsiao have suspended operations to focus on Spoonrocket, their home food delivery service for twenty-something tech guys. Just kidding, Spoonrocket is intended to be a healthier fast meal solution for everybody, not just single geek guys whose tummies can't tolerate fried junk anymore.
This past weekend T324's owner David Daniels tried Spoonrocket.
His words: "It was good, fast, and not expensive. Too bad they don't yet deliver to Albany."
The purported mission of Spoonrocket is to change people who consider fast food to be food into people who eat whole foods without crippling them financially or adding to their overclocked lives.
It seems honorable and based on the adoption around here, it may be possible in some areas. Of course, around here it's being adopted by people who eat arugula on the regular, not fast food junkies.
To balance that, there's a philanthropic component: "Through World Food Program USA, we donate one nutritious meal to a child in need with every meal you purchase. We just don’t think anyone should ever go hungry." Will it scale?
Spoonrocket, since it uses it own kitchen (just one so far) to prepare foods and its own trucks to deliver, faces some of the exposure to infrastructure cost risk that doomed Webvan.
And their stated goal of buying local and organic as much as possible could become a commodities logistics nightmare in areas not so well-supplied with nearby organic farms and organic produce delivery services. Sadly, our intel indicates the noble experiment is already devolving.
T324's Senior Project Manager Brian Nowell, a Cal grad who came up on Late Night Option but also knows his fine foods, was an early Spoonrocket adopter and evangelist.
It was everything he loved, and his household ordered five nights a week. But after a flurry of pushback on review sites about portion size, Brian started to get Spoonrocket emails with polls. "Do you want bigger portions?" "Do you want more home-style meals or more artisanal meals?"
Fast social metrics mean fast pivots, and Spoonrocket published poll results showing the landslide victory of big American meals and pivoted.
Spoonrocket hit profitability in August. So the food is getting dumbed down and carbed up. "It's just mac and cheese and ribs now", Brian said sadly, "I've completely stopped ordering from them." David's picture shows mac and cheese and ribs, as it happens.