Food on Demand Is Evolving, Again

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New Yorkers want a food delivery service that’s smart, unique and above all compelling—it’s a tough crowd.

We’ve all been through this. Ordered food for delivery and not loved it very much. The usual just-too-many napkins and all that plastic silverware, icy cold food and a long (extra long) wait. Never mind when it comes all mixed up, complete with a dried-out unidentifiable spring roll. But, at long last, these days are now truly numbered.

This week the Altamarea Group launched their “Pasta on Demand” platform with Ubereats—a small step for them, a giant leap for lovers of pasta who want to have it arrive properly hot and ready, at home. “There are ‎now new ways to enjoy food without spending time in a restaurant only,” says Ahmass Fakahany, CEO and owner of Altamarea Group. And so they decided to embrace exactly this transformational “on demand mentality.” And Uber was the perfect partner for this—with their disruption of the status quo ability, and of course, reach. “We have different venues, highly talented chefs and execution skill. So we wanted to focus on our comparative advantage and not create de novo the marketing and technology for delivery,” Fakahany explains.

The menu, created by chef Michael White, offers a selection of five handmade pastas, as well as salad and dessert options. Highlights include creste (squid ink pasta with shrimp and  calamari ragu, topped with bread crumbs), gnocchetti (combining roasted butternut squash with kale pesto and pine nuts), agnolotti (a Piedmontese veal ravioli with brown butter and sage), and a classic tiramisu for good measure.

It was Momofuku’s David Chang who said something like: “No one’s ever taken the time to really do delivery food well.” And so, a little over a year ago, he backed co-founders Caleb Merkl and Akshay Navle to launch Maple, ready to change the whole setup. With gorgeous packaging, an easy to use app and healthy food (changing all the time) all on demand. And the best part? The process, meaning every single step of the process, is perfectly considered.

“To put it simply: Food delivery doesn’t work well right now,” says Merkl. “Most traditional restaurants aren’t built to deliver meals outside of their dining rooms, which means the delivery experience is extremely inconsistent.”

So, of course, it’s all about taste and convenience. But when it looks good, well, it just feels so much better. I guess it also all shows up from an aesthetic perspective; thanks to Greg Hathaway, who came from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to be Maple’s creative director. “We’re centered around the ideas of smart, modern and quality,” says Maple co-founder and CEO Merkl.

“To put it simply: food delivery doesn’t work well right now,” says Merkl. “Most traditional restaurants aren’t built to deliver meals outside of their dining rooms, which means the delivery experience is extremely inconsistent. Consumers have to comb through an overwhelming number of choices, the food itself does not deliver well or look presentable when it arrives, and to top it all off, customers pay a premium for the privilege of such a mediocre experience.” A perfect niche for Maple—bold and memorable.

And there are also others who have emerged ready to do the category justice, like Sprig, with their fresh ingredients and ready-to-heat meals from Munchery and also the health-conscious GoodMeal. “The delivery space has grown exponentially over the past 18 months. The client is driving this surge as part of an overall acceleration of consumer ‘choice and convenience’ in so many offerings in retail, F&B and other sectors,” says Fakahany. “People want more choice, with quality not compromised, and at their convenience. Delivery on demand through your smartphone is growing and New Yorkers eat out or at home as much as ever.”

But New Yorkers also want something smart, unique and above all compelling—it’s a tough crowd. So in September, Maple partnered with IFC to offer a limited-time Juan’s rice and chicken dish, prior to the Documentary Now! premiere of Juan Likes Rice & Chicken. All orders included a complimentary link to watch the episode ahead of the premiere. Merkl can’t give details but promises that the menu will of course evolve, the tech side will improve—and, above all, an even more personalized experience is en route. It’s the New York way, after all, to have it methodically the way we like it.

Photos courtesy of Ubereats.

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Daniel Scheffler

Daniel Scheffler is a writer living in Manhattan (with his fiancé and pup). He writes for the New York Times, South China Morning Post and more.