A duo of well-heeled food delivery options launched their operations in New York City late last month.
The well-known Taxi alternative app Uber is getting serious about its meal delivery service and is expanding its UberEats program. While noted celebrity chef David Chang has teamed with Josh Kushner’s Thrive Capital to launch in Manhattan. Uber (the company) had been testing the service in Los Angeles (under the name UberFresh) and in Barcelona prior to the Gotham rollout. UberEats, which allows users to order delivery from a pre-set menu of one or two options directly from the Uber app.
UberEats promises to bring users “curated” meals from popular local restaurants. There will be a couple options per day but there is no guarantee of a vegetarian choice and the menu will change daily. Purchasing a meal through UberEats is a very similar process to ordering an Uber car, but instead of meeting your ride at the curb, you meet your lunch. UberEats meals will arrive in ten minutes or less and has its own dedicated drivers.
UberEats lunch and dinner options will fall between $9 to $15. Uber charges a flat $4 in New York City regardless of the number of meals you order. There is also no need to tip.
The program which launched in NYC with options like an “exclusive sandwich” from American Cut, a lobster roll from Barchetta, and a kale caesar salad from Sweetgreen. In Chicago, there are choices like a short rib torta and salad from Xoco, a burger from DMK Burger bar, and a market salad from Freshii. In Los Angeles where there are also dinner options – menu options include a classic turkey sandwich from Stella Barra, a gyro plate from California Pita, and chicken vermicelli from Phorage.
Uber is slated to face stiff competition in the delivery space, especially in New York City from Chang among others. Maple plans to bring customers “restaurant quality meals” at a similar price point to Uber.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has been telegraphing his attempt at delivery domination. “Once you’re delivering cars in five minutes, there’s a lot of things you can deliver in 5 minutes.” Uber’s first foray into “things” began with courier service called UberRush tested in Manhattan. Next up was Cornerstore, a delivery service for household items beta-tested in Washington, D.C. that was renamed UberEssentials.
“In general delivery food is not that great,” says cofounder Caleb Merkl. “The actual experience around reliability is pretty low with a lot of choices, and a bloated price point. We want to make delivery food exceptional at every touch point, and to do that we have to own the entire process. From sourcing ingredients to developing our own menus, building a back-end to get the food there.”
Maple plans to solve all those problems at once by “owning the process at every touch point.” The startup sources its ingredients for menus designed to be delivery-friendly. Its chefs then prepare them in dedicated kitchens, offering three options each for lunch, which costs $12, and dinner, which will run you $15. Because Maple keeps delivery zones to within five-minute bike rides of each kitchen, the startup claims it will get the hot food to your door in less than 30 minutes from when you place your order,” says cofounder Akshay Navle.
The startup is counting on its food to make the biggest impact. It’s carefully sourced. The chicken in front of me is antibiotic-free and free-range, the sides of mushrooms, potatoes and spinach from local farms like those of Gotham Greens in Brooklyn. The tortillas in the vegetarian green chili enchiladas are fresh, as is the sustainably sourced baked filet of arctic char with roasted fennel, leeks and broccoli rabe.
“This is a restaurant concept outside of the restaurant’s four walls, and that’s what got David so excited,” says Maple’s executive chef Soa Davies. The former head of menu development at Le Bernardin and an author and consultant to top restaurants around town, Davies signed on thanks to Chang’s persistence, as the chef called her over and over on a vacation to Italy until she’d agree to take a meeting the Monday she got back. Now she’s looking forward to helping influence farmers to grow special crops and herbs for the talent in the Maple kitchens, who hail from restaurants like Esca and ABC Kitchen for the chance to work with Chang and Davies and reach a lot of diners every day.
As a result of UberEats and Maple, venture capitalists are salivating with hundreds of millions to invest in food delivery. Uber alone raised $5.9 billion in funding.
Look for the new funding to go into additional competitors including Arcade. which is also partnering with popular NYC restaurants and will offer diners just one dish per day from a menu that will change daily.