Curated Food Delivery Service Caviar Opens To The Public And Launches Group Ordering

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Last September, we told you about Caviar, a food delivery service that works directly with awesome restaurants in San Francisco to have their food delivered for a flat fee of $9.99 in less than an hour. That service has now exited its invite-only beta period, and also just launched a group-ordering feature that will allow users to quickly and easily share their shopping cart with others.

There are any number of food delivery services already, including players like Seamless and GrubHub, which connect users with restaurants that have their own delivery people. Then there’s Postmate’s Get It Now service, which promises fast delivery of nearly anything within an hour of placing an order.

Caviar seeks to differentiate itself by offering fast delivery of food with flat-rate pricing from a curated list of restaurants, using its own delivery people. To do so, it’s partnered with a number of places around town, working only with highly rated restaurants that don’t have their own delivery force.

That allows it to do a few things that others can’t: For instance, rather than all deliveries being placed on an instant basis, Caviar’s users can schedule orders for later. That way, offices that know they’re having a big group lunch can order ahead, or users who wish to have a romantic dinner delivered can do so as well.

The scheduling allows it to work with restaurants to have couriers show up within five minutes of a meal being done, ensuring that food is freshest, and that the person making the delivery isn’t spending idle time waiting for it to cook. Users can also check in real-time where their order is and when it’s expected to be delivered. Caviar co-founder Jason Wang told me that on average, it takes 17 minutes for delivery from the restaurant to a user’s home.

Since it’s partnered with restaurants individually, Caviar also ensures that all their menu items are clearly represented, sending a photographer out to capture images of their options. It now has more than two dozen restaurants on board with the service, and more than a thousand menu items to choose from.

Working with restaurants also helps it to manage large orders and scale up to dozens or even hundreds of items being ordered at once. Along with that, Caviar has a feature to enable group ordering, simplifying the process of multiple users deciding what they want when all ordering together.

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With group ordering, a user can simply share a link to his or her order with others, who will be notified to add their own items to a single cart. Once all orders are placed, the person who originally started the order has the option to look over things before signing off to have things delivered.

The group ordering feature is new. Also new is the launch of Caviar to the general public. While it has been operating in an invite-only beta period since last summer, the service is opening up to allow anyone to sign up and start placing orders. And, for a flat fee of $9.99 per order, have food delivered within an hour — whether it be for a single person or a large group.

The Caviar team is made up of three founders who were part of the Summer 2011 Y Combinator class, who had sold their previous company, Munch On Me, to College Budget last year. They’ve quickly grown Caviar — even in a private beta — to do more than six figures in monthly revenue, thanks to an average order size of more than $80. Now that it’s launched to the public and made group ordering even easier, they expect those numbers to increase.