(In)Boxed Lunch

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Their Success… Whatever your feelings about the trend, there’s no doubt that the desk lunch – that is, the practice of eating lunch at one’s computer, often while checking emails or finishing up work – is gaining popularity in offices everywhere. More and more office workers are either bringing lunch or taking advantage of the growing number of delivery options to get some grub and clean out their inboxes at the same time. Against this backdrop, Maple has an important goal: to bring some hospitality back to weekday lunch.

Unlike competitors like Plated, Caviar and Grubhub, Maple is a delivery service that is not associated with any brick-and-mortar restaurant. Maple’s food, which includes a daily rotating menu of healthy lunch and dinner options, is only available as delivery to those living or working in midtown or lower Manhattan. Without a central location for guests to visit, Maple has built their guest relationship on beautiful graphic design and playful emails announcing specials like pie for pi day (3/14) and Shamrock ice cream for St. Patrick’s. These extra surprises are made possible because the ordering process itself is as streamlined and user-friendly as possible.

Before their first order, users begin by creating an online account with their name, phone number, email address and location. By collecting your home or office address at registration, Maple can check that you fall in their delivery zone – and avoid disappointment later for those who don’t. Once you have an account, it’s easy to scroll through their menu each day, see the ingredients in each dish, and order a meal for yourself or your whole office. For those with slightly more mobile jobs, there is a Maple app for Android and iOS which features all the same gorgeous pictures of the food (usually arranged on welcoming wood tables, with cloth napkins and stoneware that would be appropriate to the best restaurants in the city).

Dishes come to $12-$15 with tax, and delivery is included so there’s no fumbling with cash when the food arrives. Instead, a smiling (and speedy) delivery person hands over the food and any extras – all neatly packaged in their signature minimalist brown and yellow packaging. Since Maple is often billed as David Chang’s brain-child, it’s appropriate that the delivery service should be gratuity-free, just like Chang’s Momofuku Nishi and an increasing number of sit-in restaurants in NYC.  With a streamlined payment system and simple, transparent pricing, it’s easy to add the whole office to the lunch order – making it just a little easier take a break and eat together.

The food itself is curated and limited to about 5 options each for lunch and dinner, which helps avoid the pitfalls of decision-fatigue in a city with endless options. Although any meals must be easy to transport, the recipes are ambitious in their use of spices and flavor – like a coriander vinaigrette on tamarind glazed tofu, or spicy jerk shrimp with sweet potatoes. The selection is well balanced, and each option includes at least one side (usually vegetable-based), an important touch that makes ordering from Maple feel more like eating a home cooked meal. Cold brew coffee, vegetable juice,  and Ample Hills ice cream can all be added at the end, although every dish comes with one sugar shack cookie – the kind of extra surprise that reminds you to take a minute to yourself in between all those emails.

Take Aways… Maple’s winning recipe combines hospitality and simplicity to bring a little more joy to working lunch every day.

Maple delivery is available to homes and offices below 14th street, or below 42nd street and between 8th Ave and Park.

 

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