All Pizzas To Be Cooked By Robots?

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A former Silicon Valley executive with a love of pizza and robots is on a quest to make a better pie and deliver it faster than the big chains can. Alex Garden is making robots that make pizza and they are coming for Domino’s.

The future of pie delivery, argues Garden, is being pioneered by robots at his Zume Pizza, and Bloomberg got a look inside the new company. The process seems to involve a team of enormous and very expensive-looking robots preparing pies that then get baked by a giant bank of ovens en route to customers.

One of the robots (her name is Marta) expertly spreads sauce “perfectly but not too perfectly, so it looks just like an artisan product.” Another, named Bruno, then “gently, without disturbing it,” moves the pizza into an 850-degree oven to prebake. Traditional humans are still required for tasks like sprinkling cheese, driving the delivery truck, and walking sealed boxes to customers’ doors, but these seem like minor obstacles, really. After all, even Domino’s has robots that warm pies on the road and diligently hunt down customers using GPS.  Pizza seems the ripest for full automation within fast food, so it’s safe to assume the whole industry is steadily moving toward the all-robot business model.

Right now, Zume’s pies only appear to be available in Mountain View, but Garden warns his company is targeting massive chains like Domino’s and Pizza Hut, which he says he’ll be able to dethrone by offering “the best-tasting pizza in the country delivered in 15 minutes for the same price as any of the other chains.”As Bloomberg points out, there’s “a lot of profit in robot-made pizza.” Just envision one of the major pizza franchises but with “virtually no” humans, Garden calmly instructs everyone. “It would be like Domino’s without the labor component. You can start to see how incredibly profitable that can be.”

The Persistent Rise Of Restaurant Takeout And Delivery

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Pizza no longer dominates the delivery and takeout business. Consumers are increasingly ordering their favorite foods to be delivered or to-go, rather than dining in-store. And, in fact, restaurant delivery traffic outside of pizza has risen 33 percent since 2012. This presents a unique opportunity for foodservice and restaurant operators to shift their strategies and operating processes to take advantage of the delivery and takeout trends, rather than have their dine-in numbers and market share cannibalized by competitors who are focused on these services.

According to recent surveys, 51% of Americans use delivery services to purchase meals from casual dining restaurant and 26% order takeout or delivery at least once a week. These behaviors show little sign of slowing: digital ordering and delivery have been growing 300% faster than dine-in traffic since 2014. Third party delivery services, like DoorDash, Caviar and Grubhub are becoming major marketplace competitors, providing speed, ease of use, convenience and customized offerings based on customers’ previous orders. Furthermore, larger players such as uberEats, Amazon Prime and Google, are now entering this space and beginning to pilot their own food delivery programs.

Confidence in the future and growth trajectory of this space is strong. More than half a billion was invested in the food delivery sector in 2014 – almost 13 times the amount in 2013 – with more than a billion dollars invested in 2015. As for restaurants, partnering with third party delivery services is a seductive alternative, with research showing an increase in restaurant sales volume from 10% to 20%.

Read more here.

Postmates Moves Into Speedy Delivery (Your Move, Uber)

blog_header-pop@2x.jpgOn Monday, Uber announced that it would be canceling Instant Delivery – the lunch-only, 10-minute curbside delivery feature in New York . The tricky logistics of the service had largely been offloaded to featured restaurants, who estimated how many of a given meal would sell each day and sent the prepackaged lunches to Uber’s midtown office to be picked up and driven or biked around the city. Even so, the delivery company admitted they may have overreached a bit, and have cancelled the service to focus on the core of the UberEats business.

Whether by coincidence or an impressively quick strategic move, Postmates has now stepped up to the ultra-fast delivery plate, rolling out their 15-minute delivery service (called Postmates Pop) in NYC at 11 am today. The service has been available for almost a year in San Francisco, and Postmates has said that it will work exactly the same way in New York (although only from 34th Street to Battery Park). To begin, you can order through the service from Fuku, Harry and Ida’s and S’MAC. It’s unclear how they’ll clear the hurdles that brought down Uber Instant, but we’re pretty sure contenders will keep stepping up until at least one nails it.

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Seamless Now Has Its Own Delivery Drivers in NYC

GettyImages-464182497.0.jpgSince 2014, Seamless has been quietly testing its “turnkey delivery service” – drivers and bikers whom restaurants without their own in-house delivery team can use to deliver food through the app. We say “quietly” because it’s impossible to tell through the Grubhub/Seamless interface which restaurants are using these delivery people, and which are using their own, and the company has declined to say just how many restaurants are using the service.

In the last few months, they’ve rolled out the delivery service in Brooklyn and Queens, mentioning popular spots like Mighty Quinn’ and No. 7 North as early adopters. It’s an attempt to compete in a crowded marketplace with companies like UberEats, Postmates and DoorDash, while still giving flexibility to restaurants that would like to continue using their own delivery teams. The pricing structure is similarly flexible – delivery is an added service, with an added commission charge of about 14%. Add that to their flat commission fee of around 15%, and the margins shrink fairly rapidly – although other delivery services top out at 30% already.

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(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.

 

Grubhub Hopes a Greater Delivery Focus Will Keep Copycats at Bay

443145850_1280-e1393607221897.jpgThe food delivery market is a crowded one, with new competitors emerging every day. Grubhub, which owns Seamless, may control a large portion of that market, but all that competition took a toll last year. In 2015, the company’s growth slowed significantly and their stock value followed suit. In response, Grubhub declared that they would move from handling logistics only to actually delivering the food.

Currently, Grubhub handles the physical delivery of about 8% of their orders. The other 92% are delivered by the restaurants themselves, which use the Grubhub equipment and software to take the orders. Taking over delivery gives the company greater control, and may make them more appealing to the restaurants themselves – but the strategy is not without its pitfalls. Hiring contracted companies to handle the food can be very expensive, and consumers are reticent to pay much for the convenience. In the fourth quarter of 2015, Grubhub lost $5.5 Million on delivery.

CFO Adam DeWitt claims that that loss was still a significant improvement over the third Quarter, so the momentum may be in Grubhub’s favor. That’s good news, since Uber and Amazon are no insignificant threat. Whatever their strategy this year, Grubhub’s biggest advantage may be simply that they got there first.

To read more, click here.

The New Meal-Kit on the Block Raises $3.7 Million

hungryroot-variety-pack.jpgIt is now nearly impossible to ignore meal-kit companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, which continue to plaster subway cars with advertisements and encourage huge investments to start-up competitors. The latest is Hungryroot, a meal-kit delivery company that wants to fill several niches at once: healthy, vegetarian, and quick.

Hungryroot has raised $3.7 million in funding from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Crosslink Capital and others, justified by the success of their predecessors and their own rapid growth. Unlike Blue Apron, Hungryroot’s business model does not involve subscriptions; one-off meals are available to order on Amazon and the company plans to expand to Whole Foods soon. While some have questioned whether the meal-kit trend is a bubble waiting to burst, the success of any business is directly tied to its ability to stand out. In this sense, Hungryroot’s biggest selling point is its innovative recipes: brownies made from black beans which somehow taste like the real thing, and noodles made from sweet potato with a  “Creamy Cashew Alfredo” sauce.

While there’s no replacement for good old fashioned comfort food, there’s definitely a market for substitutes like this – especially if they’re easy to prepare. Look out for Hungryroot in your neighborhood Whole Foods soon.

To read more, click here.