If you’re anything like me, your mood is directly proportional to the amount of food in your stomach. And when that food is terrific (and maybe even healthy, too), well life is grand. Yet, for a food-centric culture, we don’t give ourselves a lot of options. If you happen to work long hours, often by the time you get around to eating, restaurants are closed — or you’re exhausted and not particularly excited by the prospect of cooking, for yourself or the family. McDonald’s doesn’t always seem like a good choice. Or maybe you live in what is known as a “food desert,” or a location that isn’t exactly brimming with healthy, affordable options.
Pop-Up Pantry has your back. The Los Angeles-based startup is a new subscription club for food lovers that aims to let you bring the restaurant experience home with you. In other words, Pop-Up offers quality, three-course dinners crafted by top chefs via delivery for the same price one would pay for takeout. It’s like a wine-of-the-month club but for high-end dinners that are actually affordable, says co-founder David Hauslaib.
The startup launched its MVP at Launchpad LA in April, where it shipped out hundreds of dinners to customers all over the country, the co-founder tells us. Pop-Up Pantry followed with its beta earlier this month, and has since taken on a round of seed funding to meet the early demand. The startup’s first funding round was led by GRP Partners (which has also invested in Starbucks, Costco, P.F. Changs, and PetSmart), with contributions from Crosscut Ventures (investors in ShoeDazzle and Docstoc), founder and CEO of JustFab Adam Goldenberg (who also works with Crosscut) and Michel Daher, the guy behind Middle Eastern food giant, Daher Foods.
Using its new capital, PUP has begun offering featured menus, including recipes from best-selling authors “The Beekman Boys,” and plans to announce a handful of new chef partnerships in the next few weeks.
As to the startup’s business model: Pop-Up Pantry is a subscription service, which means that customers opt-in to receive 2+ meals each month, with dishes recommended for them based on their “TasteProfile.” Unlike the many other daily food delivery services, the startup ships nationwide — from Chicago to Chattanooga. Dinners serve two people, and Hauslaib says that most food is prepared “sous vide,” which means that for most items, customers just have to boil a pot of water and drop in the startup’s vacuum-sealed bags. Presto, a gourmet dinner in less than 30 minutes.
Once customers sign up, they take a quick quiz (the TasteProfile), then select menus from the startup’s chefs, who prepare and send shipments to users at home or at the office. Though the co-founder makes the distinction that Pop-Up meals are not dietary and that, if users can boil water, they can enjoy the food, meals do include instructions and preparation tips to walk you through the process.
In terms of differentiation, the co-founder said that many food subscription services today focus on snack boxes and raw ingredients, which either just provide a quick fix or require time and preparation — or there are high-end flash sale sites that cost way more than you want to pay for a quick meal. Hauslaib said that, instead, Pop-Up is geared towards people who are short on time, love good food, and enjoy eating out but either don’t have time or the money.
As to what’s next, Hauslaib (who is a two-time entrepreneur and web publishing veteran) and co-founder Tom Balamaci (a former Myspace, Sony Pictures, and NBC Universal exec) say that they’re going to focus on breakfasts and lunches, as well as developing special occasion packages — and maybe even their own line of condiments and sauces. And, leveraging TasteProfile, which is built on machine learning algorithms and allows customers to order, view rates, and review dinners, the co-founders hope to eventually build a social community that will be able to take their TasteProfiles with them when they’re on-the-go.
Busy professionals and parents, this one’s worth checking out.
For more, find Pop-Up Pantry at home here.