But thanks for all the free trials, VC investors! I've had a few above average dinners out of it.
The amount of people who want to cook and prepare a nice meal is probably a lot less than the amount of people who just want to buy, eat and enjoy a nice meal.
I live in Dublin, not exactly the biggest of cities, but I can't think of a single type of food that I can't order through one of the various home delivery apps available to me. No need to cook food or be constrained by a predetermined set of menus.
It's hard to make the case for a meal in a box service when you can order just about any food imaginable from your phone and it will be delivered within 30 minutes.
I can regularly obtain a $1 (sometimes less) delivery fee by selecting among Uber Eats/GrubHub/DoorDash/etc. The pricing blood-bath between restaurants (and delivery companies) combined with convenience-induced laziness has me doing nutty things like order a $6 froyo from a place ~100 meters away.
Speaking of Blue Apron, I recently threw out half of an unopened meal kit of theirs that convenience-induced laziness had caused to rot away in the fridge.
The delivery trend is strong. Not sure it's a net positive society-wide habit.
In the same way you don't ask everyone to learn to repair car engines or diagnose medical issues modern society puts a lot of pressure on specialization of hard work like cooking.
That being said the true optimization would be that most people be content to eat in cafeteria style settings where there are limited options and the chefs are using whatever is freshest and most affordable and availability is fixed (even if you just grab and go with the food). There is a trade off between menu diversity, the prices you pay for it, and how good it can actually be where 16+ hour open restaurants with several page menus (including fast food) are making concessions on freshness / shortcuts in preparation to provide their diversity and availability.
I think a lot of this relates to how we are in a transnational period for density. In the coming decades I am almost certain we will trend globally towards packing people into apartment / condo style living in city cores because the trends of sprawl and mcmansion single families that are going to be inherited by unmarried or childless descendants without the incomes to support them falls apart. Right now trying to build up a "local" kitchen you can go to three times a day for regular, good, healthy and diverse meals isn't feasible because the density isn't there to get them to walkable convenience, but I hope rising density makes them a possibility.
At those kinds of scales it becomes a technical probability we might just get short range delivery drones where the kitchens advertise via app or notification whats on the menu and you just select what you want and a lil bot brings it to you a la room service but optimized in the aforementioned ways to make it more sustainable.
I think this is completely false and it's unfortunate that people have this perception of cooking. Yes, it's true that if you want to be able to cook all the sorts of food you're used to having delivered, a lot of skill and hardware is probably required. However, you can cook a lot of great, tasty meals with a single pot and pan and a few inexpensive utensils and limited skill required. I think some of the biggest challenges to more people cooking at home is that it will always take more time than ordering.
If you are forced to do it, you will do it. Besides, regarding the learning curve, it feels similar to going to the gym for the first time in your life. Initially you will see a lot of newbie gains (never knew I could make eatable food) which later plateau unless you want to reach the next level.
You can do almost everything with a 12" skillet/frying pan, a large sauce pan (4 qt maybe since you probably want to cook pasta in it), and one of those sets of 3-6 utensils (you don't even need that many) if you are cooking for 1-4.
Y'know how, in old movies, single people would live in single-room apartments, often with a Murphy bed that played a part in some amount of slapstick humor? They weren't cooking in there - dinner was served downstairs.
For me the most important skill is scoping. If I can scope the meal to something inside my skill range I can complete it competently and on a reasonable timeline. I can also choose when I want to push my bounds and allow extra time, or perhaps buy some extra ingredient in case I make a mistake. I think a lot of people don't have the skills and experience to do this and as a result the experience is negative. I can now look at recipes and analyze them reasonably accurately.
Things can be a challenge at different stages:
* Plan what to cook (Do I have the right tools? do I have ingredients I can use? Can I substitute something for this one odd ingredient? Do I need to go out of my way or will my regular grocery store have everything?)
* Acquire ingredients (They don't have something. What substitute is readily available?)
* Prep ingredients (Mostly this is just monotonous, but technique can play a part. Good quality basic tools like knives can make a difference. A more skilled person will be thinking about how to get the cooking step started at this point.)
* Cooking (Skill and experience prevent annoyances like things sticking, cooking too fast, burning etc. Many beginners can't get enough context from many recipes. If you didn't choose a meal that you had all the hardware for do you have alternatives? Should have been caught at the planning stages, but the inexperienced can miss something.)
* Cleanup (It drives me crazy to see this happen only at the end, and for the surfaces and sink to covered in items that need cleanup. A mountain of effort at the end can be unpleasant, especially if you are asking someone else to cleanup and they can't even get into the sink.)
It's ridiculous to have kitchen hardware * apartments, with abysmal utilization rates.
Throw some long benches and tables in there for people to eat if they want to. Good floorplan. Have bring your own wine Wednesdays or whatever.
The biggest misalignment in home cooking is scaling. It's trivial to make 6+ portions instead of 1-2. And often cheaper per portion.
Yes, there are challenges (dishes, cleaning), but nothing reasonable adults shouldn't be able to surmout (or lose kitchen rights).
There used to be something called a 'dining club' -in the Anglosphere it mostly descended from Oxbridge student dining clubs (some were regimental dining clubs). Various social clubs in the 1800s Anglosphere descended from these sorts of things. I used to belong to one; the Berkeley City Club. In addition to providing maybe hundreds of people with the services of a professional chef, it provides something not appreciated in the modern day, with people staring at their phones: an actual social circle, and a place to go after work that isn't a bar.
These sorts of things used to be quite common, and formed the nucleus of many political associations and movements, but they became less popular with the social atomization of the 1960s.
Cooking to scale is also not a problem if you know what you're doing in the kitchen. Smaller kitchens and a lack of proper hardware can make cooking more challenging, but it's super easy to scale a recipe up and store away the extra portions. There are entire communities dedicated to meal prep tips and strategies.
It more comes down to training and time for most people, not a lack of hardware.
Yes and yes. Successfully.
Being part of a community takes communication and negotiation.
Without that, we might as well all be living in the suburbs.
I used to think in terms of communal efficiencies (hence moving into a warehouse), but that idealism was quickly abated by the realities of living with other humans, most of whom it turns out, are broadly selfish and inherently lazy.
not going to lie, this is a story that I'd love to hear more about. I've been thinking more about the co-living/co-working space these days, and a kind of a warehouse commune idea too.
The problem is common work/school/etc. schedules mean that the bulk of the utilization is at the same time; there isn't a lot to be gained by sharing unless you are in a quasi-executive commune, where a shared kitchen (and other living space) is already a norm.
If you want more people to choose to live in communes, good luck.
It wouldn't have struck me, except I named that very concern in my initial comment, and that many people still felt it's the first thing they should inform me of.
Most of us had experiences in college, but yeesh: I like to think everyone's grown as humans since their dorm days.
And I'm not talking about it being expensive in how everyone needs a Sous Vide. Cooking properly requires some things a lot of people don't have like access to a stove. If you take the bare necessities - which I would argue are a chefs knife for chopping, sauce pan, frying pan, a single burner hot plate, and probably you really want some form of oven, even if its just a convection.
Just those alone is several hundred dollars for even the most scrapyard worthy picks. Maybe you can get lucky and happen in to some deals. But probably the greatest premium is space - a lot of kids growing into the "don't ever cook" mentality are sacrificing having kitchen space whatsoever in their multi-tenant living arrangements and thus have no where to go with all this stuff.
And operating with such limiting tooling in my experience makes cooking feel hugely restrictive. Its already bad enough to be endeavoring to put in the work to make something yourself, but to consider it flawed from the outset because you don't have a pizza stone for your homemade pizza where your oven can't even reach a consistent 200c you easily deflate ones interest in learning it.
And saying its easy is also bad for anyone trying it out. It makes them feel worthless when they do struggle to dice vegetables the first hundred times until you develop the knack for it, or can't flip an omelette properly and end up with scrambled eggs. Because people on the Internet kept saying it was so easy.
Theres putting ham on bread and calling it a meal and theres the ability to take the bounty of nature and create a sensation that nothing else can produce out of it. If you tell people its satisfactory to just do the former and thats good enough you shouldn't be surprised when they stop trying and go out to eat all the time because they want the later. And there is no shortcut there - I constantly strive to cook new things because I want to get better at it and have for a decade now, and I like to push myself in making complicated dishes to experience new things, but I'd never ever risk someones intrigue in the culinary arts by saying its easy.
> I'd never ever risk someones intrigue in the culinary arts by saying its easy.
I'm sure that's true from some. But the opposite could be true for others. I think saying it's easy as an isolated statement is pretty useless (note that I never said cooking was easy). However, I think rebuffing statements that cooking is hard coupled with pointers to easy dishes (which I admittedly didn't provide) are a good antidote.
Personally, I love to invite into my kitchen those I know who think cooking is too hard to try to equip them to believe otherwise :)
I too wonder if overall it's a bad habit (socially and environmentally) that I should try to change or if it's just a reasonable and efficient way to get food in the 21st century.
I live not too far from a very good couscous restaurant, and the tradition among the maghrebi matriarchs is to come to get takeaway with their own pots. I've picked up on the habit and it's a really good compromise - minimum eoclogical impact, delicious food, in the comfort of your own home (useful when you have babies)
I get the feeling your definition of "not a lot more expensive" is a lot more inclusive than mine.
Obviously cost of home cooking vs prepared depends a lot on where you'd eat out and what you'd make for yourself but in my experience fast food off the value menu is about the only thing that's close to cost competitive with cooking for yourself. I would have to eat almost exclusively organic and add a lot of wild non-frozen seafood to my diet if I wanted to make the cost of preparing my own meals close to the cost of buying Chipotle/Five Guys quality prepared food. Maybe the numbers are different for people who shop at Whole Foods or otherwise go out of their way to increase the cost of groceries but your statement that eating out is close to cost competitive with cooking for yourself seems like it's from another universe.
Cooking would probably still end up being cheaper in most cases but not by a huge margin. But then again Paris might not be very typical in that regard, food is notoriously expensive here.
Given that most delivery services have a minimum, it's pretty difficult to spend less than $15-20 to get your food delivered.
In my experience, it's about $2-4/meal to cook, $12-15/meal to eat out, and $20+/meal to get delivery. Imagine that over a year. If you're cooking at $4/meal vs eating out at $12/meal, that's ~$3000 over a year!
On the other hand, you are paying for convenience and some people are willing (and able) to shoulder that cost.
A game changer for me has been a high quality rice cooker. Put rice or quinoa in the cooker as soon as I wake up and my at my “lunch break” I prepare some other stuff, eat and get back to work. I work from home all day generally.
To use it, you have to transport your ingredients there, trust that the pots and pans were cleaned by the previous users, trust that no-one else is using it at the same time, trust that everything is currently functional, do the cooking, and transport the food back, or store your food there and hope no-one steals it.
The dorm kitchen only had 1 set of equipment (1 oven, 1 fridge, etc). Considering that most people in an apartment scenario would be prepping their main meals around the same time (dinner after work), there would have to be many sets of equipment so they could run in parallel. There would be little gain from shared equipment if you still needed ~5 sets for 10 families instead of 10 sets for 10 families. Also, if you have any specialty equipment (ice cream maker, wok, favorite stainless steel pans, any number of things) you either have to lock it up in the communal kitchen, transport it every time you use it, or just use it on-site in home.
The efficiency of a communal kitchen is too predicated on trust and good maintenance by the community or landlording organization. In practice, it limits people to simpler meals with less prep. It will rarely match the efficiency of individual kitchens.
That's kind of what restaurants are now, along with takeout.
While it might seem not intuitive it is actually 100% incorrect. Larger menus command smaller prices and shittier food, which is why all excellent restaurants converge on very small menus ( not more than 1 page ).
Places with large menus typically are diners, casual sit down restaurants and ethnic pre-gentrification places. Large menu non-chain restaurants are likely to have low grades from the health departments and use produce and proteins on the verge of spoiling. To compensate for that such places tend to have low prices.
interesting you say this -- I've been thinking along similar lines. I've been calling it "banquet style" restaurants : scheduled menu (crowd votes/RSVPs); pay by subscription (?), very reasonable prices (due to menu optimization), make the environment an interesting social/network/meetup experience; beer/wine/cocktails are extra and high margin...
- their recipes are not too hard and instructions are generally carefully sequenced and clear
- their hardware requirements are generally quite limited
I strongly disagree here. Or rather, I disagree that one sort of cooking is hard, and that's "normal" everyday cooking. Cooking restaurant dishes is probably hard, but that's fine because you probably don't want restaurant food every day. I certainly don't.
Sure, if you've never done it before it may seem difficult, especially if your expectations are that you're going to be eating something equivalent to takeout or restaurant meals, but it's easy to get started as long as you keep it simple. For instance the following 5 dishes are all pretty simple to make, the pasta dishes can all be made within 20 minutes with practice too. I've made all of these (except the carbonara) within the last week.
- Tomato and Basil or Parsely pasta (I leave out the mozzarella): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eabecxMhJlE
- Proper Carbonara: https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/gennaro-s-...
- Coq au vin (easy, but takes a while): https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/books/the-delia-collecti...
- Pasta with prawns: https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/pasta-recipes/spaghetti-...
- Three summer antipasti: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/06/antipas...
> requires a lot of hardware to do
Again, disagree. I could make all of those dishes with two pans, one knife and a wooden spoon, all cheap. There is a lot of kitchen equipment out there, and better quality stuff will make your life better, but for most stuff YAGNI. Spiraliser? YAGNI. More than 5 knives* ? YAGNI. Stand mixer? YAGNI. etc. etc.
* I could survive with one knife, though I regularly use about 3. You don't need to spend a lot, my favourite knife was about $25.
I think a good rule of buying kitchen equipment would mirror the rules of optimisation:
1. Don't buy it
2. Don't buy it
3. Maybe buy it if you repeatedly find it would make your life easier/food better.
> is an acquired skill that takes a lot of blunt learning
I'm not sure what you mean by blunt learning, but sure, you learn over time just like anything else, but if you start out simple (avocado on toast: good bread, good avocado, salt, pepper, olive oil) and work from there you can start winning in the kitchen straight away. This isn't a process where you produce crap for a few years before you suddenly start making something edible at year three. Work up to the complex stuff.
> a lot of minute details about how certain ingredients interact
Again, start out simple. Follow simple recipes (Jamie Oliver's Italian cook book is a pretty decent starter). You learn how ingredients interact over time as you're doing it, especially if you're thinking while you're cooking.
It's pretty rare (unless you're massively over stretching your abilities) to create something inedible, so as your experience and confidence grows you can experiment with flavours more with little consequence. For instance the other day I threw in some rosemary I had sitting around into my bread dough. It didn't work, but the loaf was still totally edible, and it got eaten. It was OK, just not great.
> In the same way you don't ask everyone to learn to repair car engines or diagnose medical issues modern society puts a lot of pressure on specialization of hard work like cooking.
No, but you can certainly change the wipers on your car or self-prescribe over the counter painkillers. Start simple.
- Start simple
- Buy quality ingredients where you can. Buy flavourless tomatoes, your food will be bad. Cheap beef in a burger? Bad burger.
- Buy and make what you need. Don't try to make restaurant portions, especially with good ingredients, you'll go bankrupt. 85g of pasta might not seem like an actual adult portion, but it really is enough.
- Yagni. Don't buy equipment unless you really worked out you need it.
- Learn when celebrity chefs are mucking about with simple food to make it seem more complex, they all do it. Learning to recognise the unecessary flourishes will make stuff simpler.
- Practice. You will fail, you learn from it, but at least you can eat the failures. Most of the time.
- If it tastes good it is good
Its hard because its not a sustainable place to put someone in to tell them they should be cooking more and then telling them to only cook the relatively limited palette presented as "entry level cooking". Probably the greatest turn off Ive ever seen to anyone aspiring to make their own meals is when they go for a month making everything themselves without ever having tasted a luxirious pan fond from the things they made because they both always played it safe and second were limited in their tooling to what they can make.
Its more endemic of a more general problem of people wanting results now, that if something doesn't result in instant success that its not for them. It took me a hundred hours of chopping and flipping pans to become good at it. If I hand a novice my knife it will take them three times longer to make larger cut diced vegetables because they have never done it before. Probably the best example is how long it takes to manage to flip omelettes out of pans without breaking them. It takes a while to do that! Its not easy!
And I recognize I'm a total amateur. I'm not some professional chef. Those guys are truly amazing. They make art out of the same tools I have. What they do is an incredible job. A hard job. It took them years to master their craft, and its disingenuous to them to say its so easy.
I just think the popular messaging of "just start cooking, its so easy if you just do only the basics"! Ends up causing way more harm than admitting that getting good at it to where you can confidently get up in the morning and not even think about eating out because you can make something you want at home if you want to is a time consuming and hard process. Sending signals about it being easy just makes someone wake up a few months down the road wondering why they still suck so much at it because everyone told them it would be so easy, but what they make to their palette still cannot compare to the diversity they want and get from eating out all the time so they stop trying. I just personally see that happen all the time in my peer group.
> Its hard because its not a sustainable place to put someone in to tell them they should be cooking more and then telling them to only cook the relatively limited palette presented as "entry level cooking".
Rubbish. There's nothing wrong with simple food, and the variety is huge. It's not intrinsically worse than "complicated" food.
> Probably the greatest turn off Ive ever seen to anyone aspiring to make their own meals is when they go for a month making everything themselves without ever having tasted a luxirious pan fond from the things they made because they both always played it safe and second were limited in their tooling to what they can make.
Nonesense. If you go for a month making food that tastes good without deglazing the pan then you ate food that tastest good. Deglazing the pan is just one technique in the reportoire of any cook or chef, home or otherwise and you don't suddenly go from dissapointing food to good food once you learn that one technique.
> Its more endemic of a more general problem of people wanting results now that if something doesn't result in instant success that its not for them.
That has nothing to do with how hard it is to cook good food at home.
> It took me a hundred hours of chopping and flipping pans to become good at it.
Yeah, it takes practice to become good at anything. It took me a while to learn to tie my shoelaces when I was a kid, but I didn't give up and pay for a communal shoe tieing service. The advantage to learning to cook is that you can become proficient enough (lots of recipes are dirt simple to follow) to start making stuff that's good in a short amount of time.
> If I hand a novice my knife it will take them three times longer to make larger cut diced vegetables because they have never done it before.
Yep, so? My kids are way slower in the kitchen than me. Speed isn't everything. Getting faster comes with practice, but an onion chopped slowly doesn't taste worse than one chopped fast.
> Probably the best example is how long it takes to manage to flip omelettes out of pans without breaking them. It takes a while to do that! Its not easy!
For some reason I am crap at omlettes, even after many years of cooking. But you know what? That two or three piece omlette that ended up on my plate is still edible and still tastes good. You don't have to produce perfect looking food with excellent technique.
> And I recognize I'm a total amateur. I'm not some professional chef. Those guys are truly amazing. They make art out of the same tools I have. What they do is an incredible job. A hard job. It took them years to master their craft, and its disingenuous to them to say its so easy.
You're putting words into my mouth there. I'm not saying that what those chefs do is easy, that would be ridiculous. It is clearly hard, but it's also completely irellevant. We're talking about home cooking. That's not hard.
> I just think the popular messaging of "just start cooking, its so easy if you just do only the basics"!
No, not "only do the basics", I'm saying "start simple". Simple food can be, and often is, good food. Start simple, make stuff that's good, but not complicated, and work from there. Grow the complexity as your confidence grows.
> Ends up causing way more harm than admitting that getting good at it to where you can confidently get up in the morning and not even think about eating out because you can make something you want at home if you want to is a time consuming and hard process.
What the hell are you eating for breakfast? Boil yourself a couple of eggs. Make avodado on toast. Make yourself some Pan con Tomate. Scramble yourself some eggs, maybe fry a little bacon on the side. This shit isn't complicated, and it's still good.
When you get home, reheat some Coq au Vin, it tastes great when it's sat overnight in the sauce.
> Sending signals about it being easy just makes someone wake up a few months down the road wondering why they still suck so much at it because everyone told them it would be so easy
It's not easy, but it's also not hard. It's one of those things that if you want to you can get good at to the point you can make good tasting simple food pretty quickly.
> but what they make to their palette still cannot compare to the diversity they want and get from eating out all the time so they stop trying.
You don't have to eat at home all the time. It's not all or nothing. Eat out sometimes, eat in sometimes. I go out for Cambodian food because I have none of the basic ingredients or skills to make it. That doesn't mean I can't then make lasagne at home the next day if I want that.
> I just personally see that happen all the time in my peer group.
Perhaps your peer group have just had some bad advice, or perhaps they've been put off by the incredibly negative narrative that you talk?
Most Americans can't afford 10$ per person per meal. Hell, the minimum wage here in Indiana is 7.25$, if you're lucky at retail you might be making 9$, average household income is $45,943 in Indiana, even just one person earning that you're taking home 35,482$ a year which is about 97$ a day which makes just 1 of these meals a day 10.2% of your net income.
The problem is, people try and apply Bay Area lifestyle to the rest of the country.
I tried BA, and while it was convenient I never felt I was getting the best quality or enough food for the price. I do have a lot of recipe cards that I still use though.
Totally off topic, but I can never quite get over how ridiculously cheap food is in the US.
Keep in mind there's a LOT of subsidies for farmers and livestock. Part of the price is because it's baked into our taxes.
Granted, we also have more than 900 million acres of farm land. That's more than 1.4 million square miles. For perspective only 6 countries are larger than that in total land area (7 if you include the U.S.)
Which are also cheap compared to Europe.
Same, and a couple years of Blue Apron was an incredible cooking training for me. It required me to look up how to prep all those ingredients. And just learning temperatures, how to use knives, how to operate efficiently in the kitchen, what tools you ACTUALLY need to purchase, all things that just take tons of practice I was able to get a pretty solid handle on.
I really feel comfortable in the kitchen after a couple years of Blue Apron.
The case for home cooking over delivery food most people know already :)
Say that the average "entree" for an Asian restaurant is $12, soup/app is $6. Lets pretend that there are two of you and both order app and entree. This means that the meal for 2 from an Asian restaurant is 2 x (12+6) = 36. We will let the cost be 33% i.e. restaurant barely hanging on which is equivalent of your family not buying anything on sale and every time randomly selecting the most expensive place to buy your ingredients.
This brings the input cost of a meal for two people (app or soup/entree each) to:
~33% of $36 = $12
Lets give a 50% upcharge for convenience of using a meal kit:
$12 + 0.5 * $12 = $18.
Ok, so we are at $18 for two people for the entire meal. Hell, lets increase margins further. Make it $20.
There's not a single meal kit company on the market at this time that sells kits for 2 people for $20 a meal on a non-trial basis.
WholeFoods, Wegmans, KeyFoods, ShopRite, Ahold are going to kill this entire "industry". They already have pre-packaged "dinner ready" containers that they are willing to sell at their cost + 10%. It is just a matter of time until they start marketing it.
The cost of WholeFoods "meal kit" for two people needed to make the standard Asian fare? About $11. That's the competition for meal kit companies. They need to compete with $11 spent at Whole Foods.
Currently they have about $10 worth of margin (currently 80% to 100%) on this before they are hitting price points of intro period of meal kit companies (nearly $20-$30 post intro). If they spend $3 of that margin on little things ( soy sauce, tahini paste, miso, oyster sauce, sprouts ) that are just for that meal they recreate meal kit cheaper, faster, fresher and most importantly from an already existing infrastructure that is designed to operate successfully on 5-10% margins.
If you want to play a different game, such as maximizing nutrition, maximizing taste or texture instead of appearance in an ad, meet some specific health goal, or try something that might (or might not) be enjoyable, then home cooking is better.
By analogy its like the difference between formulaic pulp fiction mass market paperbacks vs the total sum of all human literature ever written.
Delivery is more profitable, but profit does not imply better food. A bad HN car analogy is delivery/restaurant food is like a 70s american car before the foreign car invasion; someone's making money but its not a good product.
So I'd be looking at about 4x the cost if I ate a delivery pizza every day.
How do the figures compare in your area? Is delivery food radically cheaper?
A couple of footnotes:
1. Pizza is absurdly cheap, even for takeout food. I don't really understand how that works.
2. I prefer takeout over paying for delivery, which saves a lot. My favorite pizza places are in walking distance.
Too often we'd order Indian and realise they had added extra salt to preserve some 'overstock'
Also, invariably the content in takeaway food is the lowest cost produce.
If you care about where your food comes from and what goes into it you cut out the middleman.
The big one is that I know what's in it and can select/exclude ingredients based on my own criteria. Another big plus is that I can tweak the flavors to match my preferences.
Also the meals were generally good, but not spectacular. They take as long to prepare, you need to be at home to get the delivery. The only upside is not having to go shopping - and if you any non-standard ingredients I always have to go to the further bigger supermarket, not the 2 that are easy to walk to. The cost was maybe 0-20% higher than buying it yourself. More toward 0% with nice cuts of meat, more like 50% markup if you did some non-fancy pasta or pancakes or whatever - but you could choose to ignore those, to be fair.
Delivery food and meal kit services aren't really competing for the same customers. Meal kits require prior planning, time and storage space, while delivery food isn't something a lot of people necessarily plan for (or at the very least, don't need to plan for).
We did Blue Apron and Sunbasket both for a while. Both are generally good products, but they both take time we don't really have. (So my wife periodically logs into the app and opts out of everything they'd have otherwise sent automatically.)
As you well should.
How the fuck have we gotten to the point where chopping up vegetables is a task too onerous for the "I'm too busy in my hustle to bother with this shit" types? These ass backwards Silicon Valley 'products' should be taken behind an alley and burned to the ground.
Coral reefs are dying, mass exctinction is underway, our oceans are deadened and acidic, the little life that remains is full of microplastics and metals, glaciers are receding, entire fucking nations are sinking, fires are blazing larger than ever, antibiotics are no longer effective, heck, even drinkable water is getting scarcer, but fuck it, what we need is yet more asinine packaging to let the fat, overfed, heavily consuming American have yet another morsel of convenience because god forbid he have to get off his electric wheelchair to exercise his muscles and bike to a grocery store to buy some fucking Brocolli.
Fuck it all.
Most meal kits (definitely Blue Apron) still have you chopping up vegetables; they are taking care of portioning and grouping (shopping and household inventory management), not prepping. So your complaint here is a bit of a non-sequitur.
I can't even begin to imagine how hard it would be if I had crippling arthritis in my hands.
I also have a 3-year-old, and keeping on a routine is something I feel that is important, so dinner on the table by 6 is my gold standard that I really really want to have happen as much as I can (allows bedtime routine at 7:30).
I often buy pre-chopped veggies, as long as I trust the chopper (there is a little farm market down the street from me and I see them chopping in the back room). The time it saves is great, easy 5 minutes closer to dinner time than I'd be otherwise, not counting the extra cleanup.
It might seem lazy to someone in full health, but sometimes those small things make all the difference.
The example which springs to mind is the pre-peeled fruit a number of years ago which was similarly dismissed for having a harmful environmental impact, but if you've lost motor function in your hands it means you can eat a wider variety of foods.
Just because you don't see the need for something doesn't mean the need isn't there.
Shameful to admit, but I only this month finally got around to read "Lean Startup". I'm in a process of copying notes and writing down some thoughts, so I have this fresh in front of me: the book frequently talks about the goal of a startup being to "discover how to build a sustainable business around that vision" (emphasis mine).
But then, it shows to build unsustainable growth and keeps portraying companies that got sold as examples of success. Such is the double standard, and the only way I can reconcile those two views is by concluding that the goal is for you to make money via the discovery, and for someone else to use that discovery to build an actually sustainable business. But if it is so, then there's no surprise people skip the "sustainable business" part, as you can make even more money in an unsustainable way.
Bullshit idea crashes, trashing the livelihoods of the developers and later investors, but you and your money are long gone.
This can look suspiciously like the slower and more professional version of a pump 'n dump stock scheme - although historically it's sometimes written off as "irrational exuberance".
If by some miracle the bullshit idea actually flies, your remaining stock gives you a slice.
If you don't like it then go write software for bigco and shove your money in an index fund. Nobody is forcing developers to work for trendy startups or forcing investors to invest in freshly IPO'd startups.
Yet they're somehow looking at a $120B IPO next year.
A network effect (also called network externality or demand-side economies of scale) is the positive effect described in economics and business that an additional user of a good or service has on the value of that product to others. When a network effect is present, the value of a product or service increases according to the number of others using it.
Pump it with cash, then dump it on the public market with an ipo to all the less sophisticated investors that aren't reading the financials.
Sure, every once in a while, you'll come across a Facebook type business that ends up being profitable, but in the meantime you can still make money on the losers when you cash out.
Do these actually exist? My understanding is that retail investors aren't significant and I don't believe that institutional investors don't look at financials.
Many don't, like indexed funds. They just try and keep their shares ratios inline with the market and rely on it always going up overall.
What you're talking about with IPOs is not quick or easy, and definitely not guaranteed in any way. Taking a company public essentially counts as an exit for most funds, and if it was that easy to just sell up everything then the entire VC field would look different. That process is more for private equity and banking firms who maneuver through financial engineering rather than early and mid-stage VCs.
The most prominent one started out more than two decades ago by as a kind of subscription service -- every week you'd get a bag containing the produce of the season, along with weird stuff like Hokkaido pumpkins that most people had no idea what to do with.
These days they ship recipes along with the exact quantities of ingredients that you'll need for cooking. Often ingredients that are hard to come by in grocery stores. It's time saving and usually delicious.
Anyway, my point is, they bootstrapped their business, pivoted a bit here and there, and built it to be profitable. So it's certainly doable.
The article mentioned Blue Apron (and competitors) are trying to increase sales at grocery stores, maybe some of them can survive like that if that works.
Kroger has these in the U.S. Probably some other chains, too.
I was surprised by how little food you get, and how expensive the Kroger kits are. I expected them to be a cheaper alternative to Blue Apron, but they're about the same price. And at least Blue Apron and its competitors deliver to my door. I have to stop at the supermarket for the store-brand knock-offs.
From what I've seen it doesn't help, the in store ones cost almost as a restaurant anyway, But at least a restaurant solves the time consuming part (cooking, cleaning), if your in the store then getting everything packaged together only saves a few minutes.
This is in Australia with a higher minimum wage, I imagine it would make an even smaller difference in the US.
But this is the conundrum. If I can pick up a few ingredients, even if there’s some waste, and throw together a meal quickly the meal kits may not add much.
This no longer exists, people probably look on their phones, but the restriction in choice was useful.
Then again that would be a rather niche market.
This is from 2008:
The tricky part with this business model is making the food taste good is an art form and not easy to boil down to a simple 9 step formula. Also difficult is keeping all the ingredients fresh and portioned / ready to cook while keeping the price lower than it would be to go out and eat.
to me main benefits are:
> control of food prep
> control of ingredients
> having ultra fresh cooked meal
> less packaging waste ?
How much does one meal (per person) come out to be ?
If I am correct, they are targeting a relatively well off crowd and not the general populace.
Are their margins large enough to get by on just rich-ish customers ?
I think that's a reasonable price to pay for blue apron convenience. Yes, you might be able to source the ingredients for less. But you lose out on time there, as well as right sizing of ingredients.
Also I don't want to pay ~$9 for their pasta dish and also cook and wash dishes after it. Even if someone who is making minimum wage - they will waste ~30 minutes cooking + ~15 minutes washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen after, so it's about $15 on top of the $9 portion, and you still have to go to grocery because their food is mostly for dinner and for 2-4 times a week because they have limited number of recipes.
On top of that I want to be able to spontaneously decide what I want to eat today, and not being forced to choose my food 2 weeks before. Maybe that works for someone, but whenever we try it just gets really boring and annoying after 3-4 weeks of usage.
Most weeks there's a steak option, a fish option, or both, and there's always a couple non-pasta chicken options. I think the steak options are becoming somewhat rarer, there used to be one every single week.
A while ago they stopped charging different prices for different options. (So of course, I usually try to get the ones that look like the most expensive ingredients). I think that, along with increasing the number of options every week, was probably in response to customer feedback on pain points... but both those things also cut into their profitability. My sense is that they've been reducing the cost of the ingredients accordingly, trying to catch up.
I don't mind the time to cook and clean myself, the whole point for me is I _want_ to be cooking... it's just SO convenient not to have to do menu planning and shopping. And most of the meals cook quicker than what I'd cook myself (you can follow them like a zombie barely realizing what you're doing, for better or worse, ha). I'm willing to pay for that... to a point. If the ingredients and recipes are good. And they are correctly charging the right price for me -- in that any higher, and I'd cancel, they've got me at my max ha.
Even $15/meal is probably less than I'd pay at any restaurant/carry out that wasn't terribly unhealthy, including gratuity and tax.
15$ a meal is pure insanity for 400-600 kcals, I eat 6-8lbs of chicken a week and my weekly grocery bill is right around 50$.
I live in Indiana, the average household income is $45,943, even just one person earning that you're taking home 35,482$ a year which is about 97$ a day which makes just 1 of these meals a day 10.2% of your net income.
Most of the country is not tech workers drawing high 5 and low 6-figure incomes.
I think more Americans may eat prepared food more often than you think (and Blue Apron or similar services are usually 2-3 meals a week, which is far from every meal).
But I agree it looks like the price they would need to charge to be profitable is not a price there is a sufficient market for.
I agree that it's overpriced, but I tried it discounted and found it reasonable aside from that.
If they want mass appeal then they need to have to include people in their market who can't afford to eat out for every meal.
Only if they're missing out on work by cooking their food. It's only an opportunity cost if there's an opportunity.
It doesn't cost me $400 every time I go to bed for the night.
A couple of the caveats here are:
a) The market generally has a discrete floor on contiguous blocks of time: as a reductio ad absurdum, I generally can't sell alternating 30 seconds of work out of every minute and then add that up to 1/2 time. A related concept is that there are fixed costs associated with setting up this exchange.
b) For exempt employees, more hours of work don't translate directly into more pay, though depending on the incentive structure of the firm, they may translate stochastically (e.g. working harder to get a raise). The main point is that this relationship isn't continuous and it isn't frictionless.
That being said, it's really not a bad heuristic for trying to compare the value of time vs money. If I have a preference against spending my time on some task roughly on par with my preference for not working further, I can at the very least set a bound on what my time is worth: e.g. if I know I can reliably get software contracting work for an aftertax $120/hr (incl the time taken to secure the contracts), then it's somewhere between a heuristic and a tautology to say that I'm valuing a marginal hour of free time at >$120, which suggests that I should be willing to spend $120 on something that saves me from an hour of work that's comparably-unpleasant to doing an hour of contract work.
> It doesn't cost me $400 every time I go to bed for the night.
This is a particularly poor example, since ~8 hours is a contiguous enough block that you could get an entirely different job with a night shift, so yea, the opportunity cost is literally $400/sleep if that choice was feasible.
 which is actually a pretty common problem for low-wage workers much more so than high-wage workers
If he's going to cut out sleeping, he might as well cut out eating entirely.
Maybe it was just me but I always found Blue Apron to be 45 mins of cook time. If they could find a way to help me make a meal that was 80% as good in 50% of the time, I'd be a subscriber for life.
Very few Blue Apron meals were pasta, from what I can remember. If any.
I think the competitor, Gobble, was better by a fair bit, because less prep was required. But obviously that's a tradeoff.
Huh? Don't think I ever had BA need more than two pots/pans total (usually, at most one each, sometimes with the pan reused. Often just the pan.)
> took 2-3x the quoted time for my wife and I to prepare TOGETHER
Usually took slightly longer than quoted alone; but that's going to vary a lot by skill in the kitchen and equipment quality; if you have crappy or poorly maintained knives or poor knife skills, for instance, prep time goes way up.)
> and the pan-searing time for meats was always half of what was required to get it remotely cooked.
Cooking times IME were exact, or a little long; again, though, equipment (stove and cookware) play a role.
We also did Gobble for about two weeks, there is no comparison in the quality of food, Blue Apron is SIGNIFICANTLY better. Gobble was FAR easier to prepare, for example, you would get pre-seasoned, and pre-prepared beef for a meal. Obviously that's very different than cooking a raw cut of meat yourself. But, as you pointed out, the tradeoff was in the quality of the finished food. Not even remotely close between the two.
Blue Apron food was good; occasionally they gave us something nasty but we were usually able to toss it and just skip that one thing.
So I used to struggle with this exact thing as well, and this is how I solved it. You have to remember that when you add the protein to the pan the temperature is going to drop by a large amount. So for me, as soon as I saw the first whisps of smoke off the oil, I would crank the heat up a bit and toss in the protein (or whatever I was starting with). You will be amazed what a difference in makes.
In my case, I do like cooking, but Blue Apron's subscription model became an endless treadmill that I stopped looking forward to after a couple months.
But I've thought for a while that:
A) I wouldn't pay any more than I am now for it (in fact, I keep looking around for cheaper alternatives, but there aren't any, probably because...)
B) I suspect they can't make a profit at what they charge.
(especially cause as time goes on, I skip more and more weeks, further cutting into their per-acquired-customer revenue. Either I'm just getting tired of it, or my suspicions that each month the ingredients get cheaper and cheaper are correct, perhaps in response to B above).
I don't expect them (or their competitors) to stay around.
It's difficult to make your own ketogenic meals solely via your own grocery shopping and recipe research... but I can now eat pretty tasty meals with minimal effort in 2018 via meal services.
> It's difficult to make your own ketogenic meals solely via your own grocery shopping and recipe research
I'm surprised to hear this even more. Have you tried Googling "keto recipes [other search terms]" and meal-planning around it? If you've already tried this, I don't intend this to be patronizing; I'm actually relatively new to cooking most of what I eat, which means things like meal planning are actually pretty new to me. I've just found it to be a really effective way to organize frequent cooking, and once you build up a bit of a repertoire of recipes, it doesn't really take any extra time beyond putting the ingredients and Instacart order together.
 Which it turns out means simply "getting enough protein and fiber to not be super unhealthy"....
You might need to just spend a little time researching recipes . I have 3-4 that I cycle through. Also, there's always just straight up meat + veggies to fall back on, for which there are many possible combinations and that's probably the easiest thing to make. Most nights I just bake some chicken or salmon and sautee some veggies. No hard thinking involved there. And I'll have leftovers for the next night.
For me the grocery store is by far the easiest way for me to get stuff I can eat. Restaurants / takeout / convenience stores are a minefield of hidden carbs and sugar.
I not even trying to be keto, but just generally healthy and this is my dinner most nights. Occasionally I'll add some rice or potatoes to the mix. You're right that there are many combinations of meat (chicken/steak/fish) and veggies. In the summer I grill, and in the winter I pan sear or bake.
Even expensive meats like fish or steak, still end up costing less per meal than BA.
This is too bad, I just started doing Blue Apron and I really like it. I'm actually a good cook but I get stuck in a rut with respect to cooking the same things over and over again so it's been nice to have some enforced variety, especially when it comes to sides or bowl/hashes.
The quality is good, the prices seems fair. Just seems like a fraught model.
I can buy my own chicken, broccoli, rice, etc. just fine, but having the little bits all ready to go, not stuffing up my small fridge, would be great.
(I know this is happening and will continue to happen - and this is how market choices contribute to the climate change and destruction of environment we live in.)
Wasting ingredients can be solved with better planning of meals and grocery shopping. Blue Apron is just the lazy way of getting around doing that. Those plastic containers to hold the ingredients and spices though, leave a near permanent negative footprint on the environment
Still, my concern isn't just the landfill. When talking about unnecessary packaging, it's also the energy cost of extracting oil and turning it into that plastic packaging. Not all trash is created equal.
Stuff like this is a bad example, as far as I can tell it doesn't go off because I only buy it once a year and if you know you like Korean food thing things like this are used in loads of it and if you don't know if you like Korean food maybe go to a restaurant.
If the veggie/meat pickers were highly paid experts, would it make a difference? At what pay grade and education level would you be comfortable delegating your veggie/meat picking?
Then there's people like me -- I don't really care too much about getting the perfect vegetable, as long as it's not spoiled and tastes reasonably good, I'm happy with it, and I want to spend as little time as possible -- I'm happy to pay someone else to choose if it it means I can escape a visit to the grocery store.
Ordering takeout is the most efficient way to cater to people in this slice of the market. The intersection of people who don't intimately care about their ingredients and people who want to cook is very small. Most people who want to minimize time spend on food would not entertain the idea of cooking serious meals at home.
I also wouldn't make the assumption that people like us, and the OP "don't care about ingredients". We just don't believe, like some do that our choices in ingredients will really matter that much. The ingredients our delivery guy brings us are the same as what's available in the local grocery store, we've never had bad ingredients delivered, and if we did it's easily sent back/refunded.
My sense is that meat quality has been going down, but I dunno, maybe it's exactly the same meat and the novelty has just worn off.
My sense is also that Blue Apron has historically had higher quality ingredients than some competitors, but I can't say that for sure, and am not sure it continues to be true.
blue apron (or any service like this) needs to have the best quality food in the box, otherwise it's just not worth it... and at ~$10/person per meal, it had BETTER have good ingredients.
anyways, we just cancelled our blue apron account... it was definitely pricey, and where we live (berkeley ca) there are myriad amazing options for groceries. it served it's purpose when we needed it, tho.
it's sad to see them failing, but they chose a very difficult business model, so i'm not entirely surprised. :(
If they gave you access to all kinds of exotic ingredients in appropriate quantities, selected by professional restaurant buyers who definitely know what they're doing, you might find it interesting to use the service just to explore new recipes and variations. You could almost run a whole "cooking by mail" course that way. An obvious next step would be wine service, in areas where that's permitted.
I think with their meal service, there's also an option to pair with a wine that they determine goes well with the meal.
[Of course, the new ad blitz is for someone else.]
Personally, I'm currently just not one of their target markets although on paper I probably should be. If/when I move further away than 1 block from a grocery store [I lucked out, a lot], and/or want to eat more complicated prep-time food, and/or have less time or ability to shop for ingredients [and somehow a simple grocery-delivery service just won't cut it] for some ever-increasingly complicated prep-time food, I'll might see the light.
They and other brands (especially all the online mattress and furniture brands now) are heavy on podcast advertising. Podcasts are trying to charge fairly high CPMs these days (I've seen rate cards approaching $75). Analysis I've seen says that typically it's really just high LTV advertisers who can make the numbers work, which means high initial price point or a sticky subscription typically.
So the question is, was Blue Apron's podcast advertising effective at driving revenue? Or was it just not effective enough for the growth needs of VC-backed expectations?
I'd love to find some analysis of the duration of advertisers' flights on various podcasts to see if it shows any trends towards growth or decline in that channel.
The target market for this stuff feels so slim. Either you’re in this “too time constrained to shop, not too time constrained to make food at home” sliver, or in the “don’t want to menu plan” market. In the latter, you pay for this menu planning value add with, what, 30% surplus on the ingredients? Only to be replaceable by a recipe app, basically
Made me laugh. I agree. I have yet to figure out what’s wrong with the Sonicare, seems great.
Luckily I listen to podcasts (mostly electronics) that don’t do inline advertisements. When I hear them in other shows I can usually tell they are coming with the awkward segue that seems to be common MO.
At this snapshot in time, ZipRecruiter would be the "someone else" the ads blitz I mentioned has switched to.