There are plenty of people who can make great home cooked meals (ex: homemakers) and plenty of people who would probably pay a reasonable price for someone to cook for them (ex: young professionals / bachelors). There’s an opportunity somewhere in there.
Munchery is one of the latest startups to go after it. The company’s tagline is “Reinventing the Personal Chef: Gourmet Delivered to Everyone”. It’s a pretty simple concept: professional chefs make a certain number of meals that are sold daily through the Munchery site. The meals are delivered to your door and all you need to do is heat them up. Yum.
I’ve known about the service for months, but always forget to use it. Recently, however, I’ve had constant reminders because they just launched an iPhone app that sends a daily push notification about what’s available that night.
Today, a dish caught my eye and I pulled the trigger. I decided to order the Grilled California Baja Yellowtail from Chef Raymond Reyes (Gather Restaurant. Alum of Michael Mina, Blowfish, Yoshi’s, Sushi Ran, and Bistro Liaison). It was listed at $15.99.
Grilled California Baja yellowtail topped with a lemongrass brulee sauce (made with garlic, galanga, lemongrass, tumeric, paparika, kafir lime leaves, sugar, peanut oil, oyster sauce). Jasmine coconut rice is cooked with onions, coconut milk, vegetable stock, tumeric, pepper and seasonings garnished with cilantro and sweet pepper. Grilled asparagus seasoned with olive oil, garlic and seasonings.
The ordering process was simple. You select the dish, enter the address and phone number, and request a delivery timeframe. The options were one hour increments between 5-9 PM (I chose 7-8). There is a delivery charge of $2.95, so my total came to $18.94. A little pricier than I expected, but that didn’t stop me from ordering.
Around 6:30 I got a call asking if they could deliver the food early. Minutes later, a young woman holding a Munchery branded bag was standing at my door. Since the payment had been completed through the app, she smiled, handed me the bag, and was on her way. Seamless process.
Inside the bag there was a closed take-out container sealed with a sticker describing how to heat the dish up:
Oven (recommended): warm for 3-4 minutes in 350-degree preheated oven, OR, Microwave: heat for about 1 minute. Check for fish’s desired doneness and warm longer as necessary. Squeeze lime on top and enjoy!
When opening the box, I expected the meal to be all mashed together, but it looked about as good as food can look when presented in a take-out box.
I transferred the meal to a oven safe tray and heated it for 5 minutes. Simple.
The meal was delicious. For something that only took about 5 minutes of effort, it was a great way to eat a balanced, healthy meal at home. Plus, it was much more gourmet than anything I would have made on my own. The fish was well cooked and the flavors of the rice and vegetables complemented it perfectly. The warming instructions were perfect.
The meal from Munchery was easy to order, delivered on time, and delicious. They have nailed the core experience.
But price is definitely an issue. Right now the price point seems in line with what you would spend if you went out to a restaurant, or if you ordered delivery through GrubHub (and honestly, it felt similar to having take out delivered).
This means in its current form, the service will be competing for consumer mindshare when making a decision to go out to a restaurant or having food delivered. In my opinion, the price point is too high to make it a competitive alternative to cooking at home. While the meal was potentially healthier and more gourmet than a normal take out meal, it wasn’t that much easier to buy / prepare. If anything, it was more work because I had to plan ahead and then heat it up.
However, when evaluating startups, it’s a waste to assess their potential based on what they do now. It’s important to think how the service could grow and expand. And I think Munchery has really interesting opportunities down the line.
If Munchery works, there are many ways it could lower the price and compete with consumer grocery spend, instead of consumer take-out or go-out spend. Here are two simple ones:
- Less Professional Chefs. Sure, it was fun having a gourmet meal, but I don’t need one every night. If there was an opportunity for me to order more basic home cooking from a non-gourmet chef, or even someone in my neighborhood, I think the price-point could be substantially lower. I can see Munchery building a broader marketplace of home cooked meals. I’m sure someone would call it “The Airbnb for Food.”
- Meal Plans. Many people wish they had a healthier diet, but busy schedules usually lead to last minute, unhealthy decisions. Munchery could offer a pre-paid weekly meal plan where a user could set preferences and would receive meals that fit their tastes. By offering regular subscriptions, their chefs would have a better visibility into demand and could buy in bulk, lower their costs.
Overall, I love this concept and am very excited to see how this space progresses as the companies in it start to scale. From my first experience, Munchery is off to a very good start.