It's a bakery that delivers. That's great, I guess, but there's nothing particularly technical about it. They're not using tech in some unusual or interesting way to cut down on delivery costs, or make bread in a different way, or anything. It's just... a bakery, that delivers.
There's a Web form to order your bread through, but in 2014 that's not really any different than having a phone number to order your bread through used to be. (It looks like there's a mobile app to come, but if all it does is show you a menu and let you order it would fall roughly into the same category. Table stakes.)
I was talking with a relative of mine who's been in the grocery business for decades over the holidays last year, and we were joking around about how it wouldn't be long until someone started touting home milk delivery -- something that was commonplace before most homes had TV sets, or even radios, much less computers -- as a "tech startup." This isn't that, of course. But it's close.
The use of tech here is in the ordering, inventory management, and delivery. In particular, the instant gratification. Before the mobile web, this would have been expensive and difficult. You'd need paper catalogs, phone center operators, dispatchers, trained drivers, and a lot of stock-keeping magic. Plus some very smart supply chain management. Now you need some software and off-the-shelf smartphones and you can cheaply test a whole product idea.
Now they're apparently betting that the cost per delivery can be kept low enough that they can bring you fancy bread and baked goods at a decent margin. On it's own, I'd call it a mildly interesting proposition.
The question for me is what they're planning next. Amazon started as just books, Netflix as mail-order DVDs, Square as a weird dongle that plugged into your phone's audio jack. All began with something basic, something many people laughed at. But they were all playing bigger games.
This is really no different from ordering pizza. I mean, the ingredients even overlap to some extent, although most pizza vendors will also offer drinks, sandwiches, chicken, and other dishes these days. And basically every pizza vendor will deliver to your door.
Many of the larger pizza chains have at least some presence over very large areas, so you can get the same predictable meal even when in distance cities or towns. And these days, most of these chains offer various ways of ordering, from in person to over the phone to websites to mobile apps.
Sure, it takes some skill to get such an operation up and running, but the idea itself isn't new by any means. And there really isn't anything special about it. It's just a very, very slight twist (perhaps even just a simplification) of a well-established type of business.
The overall tone of contempt is what I got "this is dumb" from.
If this is just a very, very slight twist on a business that has existed for decades you might ask yourself why it's only happening now. It could be that it's not workable. It could be that nobody ever thought of it. Or it could be that you're missing something, that you have also confused "I see nothing here" with "there is nothing here".
I don't think he thinks it's a "dumb" idea, either. Clearly it's at least somewhat viable, given that pizza delivery is well and alive, with many establishments being around for many years, if not decades.
But that's really what it boils down to: this is just a very limited form of the well-established, long-running practice of pizza delivery. Pizza is, after all, just freshly-baked bread delivered to one's door, but with the benefit of various toppings.
It's really absurd to see you talking about "why it's only happening now" or that "nobody ever thought of it", especially when we've been ordering pizza and having it delivered to our door in well under an hour for many, many, many years now. This is an old idea, plain and simple.
Some markets aren't occupied for a reason and others just haven't been explored.
But if it's at all successful, they're gonna get slaughtered by incumbents unless they defend a niche or offer a more compelling "why we make bread" story. (Also the bread kind, not just the green.)
It's not your sole place to decide this. That's why there is a community here.
PS - I know how you feel, I've had the same reactions before and the best thing to do is flag it and move on.
Where you can just order delivery from any store, bakeries included. The Postmates implementation is much better too, with an app where you can watch exactly on a map when someone takes you order (happened in seconds when I tried) and their progress as they go to the store and get you your stuff. Then there's even more general purpose apps like Exec.
Anyway, this is what you are told to do at Startup Weekend and the like. Perform customer validation and try your idea out any way possible even before you have an app, but the idea is just something we already have in spades in SF, like you said.
What's the end game? It seems like premeditated failure into murderously brutal markets where distribution is painful. If they're going to do it themselves they're going to learn quite quickly that it can only work in about a dozen metros. That's a 20 million a year business with margins that will be tiny....
Doesn't butter my bread.
For one thing, they're going to be standing in a line of people at YC all asked the question "Will people actually use this?" The median answer sort of muddles through it. Their answer will be "We sold $800 of bread in an hour and nearly killed ourselves delivering it all. People actually do want this. Additionally, we have the intestinal fortitude to do things that the line of people you just interviewed did not."
There exist severely Fun Challenges (TM) with both the product and marketing side of this at scale, by the way. Delivering 100 orders of bread, once, requires a spreadsheet, a trello board, or even a piece of paper, and exactly one bakery on board. Delivering 10,000 loves a day is going to take some serious ops expertise. It will likely be hard learned.
For what it is worth, though, they do mention that their actual application idea will be different. So maybe they have a way to scale or do something with bread delivery that isn't already covered by the existing businesses.
I suspect it's more than that (and I say that positively). A slow news day. They stand a good chance of getting attention which is of benefit in terms of YC most likely. So at the very least anyone investing knows they have a clue about how to play the game.
To take this one step further they might want to try matzoh on Passover which is coming up shortly. NYC would be a good city to test if the delivery scaled.
Soon, someone will print out your emails, stuff them in envelopes, and deliver them to you. USendly has arrived.
You send a micropayment which generates a QR code that will go on the envelope which is sorted and handed to a courier with a smart phone with a GPS that directs the self-driving car to the recipients' location. The driver then drops the envelope in their USendly box that is affixed to their home or office.
USendly also just bought PulpScan. PulpScan scans paper documents and emails them to recipients. The synergies mean that USendly can now courier paper documents between people, but are disrupting the traditional email distribution process.
The new company USendlyPulpScan has a not-so-stealthy beta up at USPS.com
I guess my standards for 'hacker'-ish are lower. I see a company potentially making an attempt to push the envelope, and that's enough for me.
edit : I was thinking in terms of general retail and not really food. Fair point : 1-hour food delivery is nothing new.
I do sincerely believe some of the counter points could have been made with less vitriol, but the fact remains that I was wrong.
Same-day? Mumbai's been doing it for over a century, without any modern technology. Over 5,000 dabbawalas deliver over 200,000 hot lunches per day, from the recipients' own home kitchens to their places of work, then return the food containers back home the same afternoon.
For example, there is this guy on youtube who made a machine to automate trying out different cookie recipes:
Just because bread and bakeries have been around forever doesn't mean that there isn't room to apply technology to make it better.
If you can make a process whereby you can bake the bread on demand and have it freshly baked just for me, that would be amazing and totally hacker worthy. Fresh bread is amazing and being able to make and deliver extremely fresh bread on demand that is profitable would be awesome.
And if they ask for too much %, just quote 'pg "All we really wanted was your money." :)
However, many supermarkets have their own in-store bakeries, which range from slightly better than bad to very good; urban areas almost always have decent bakeries; and some of the best bakeries in the world are in the US. In the SF area finding a good loaf of a rustic-style sourdough is only slightly harder to do than finding a good cup of coffee.
It'd be a strange thing to pitch to investors too. I don't hear of much VC funding going to low-margin fresh food businesses. Bakeries generally don't make many billionaires; I think the entire Cinnabon company was sold for $30M some years ago. Perhaps they're going to pitch some kind of scheduling / routing / dispatch technology for delivery businesses?
Edit: Nope, missed the link to their real site. They want to be a bakery that delivers for free.
I do wish them the best of luck. If it was available here I would order a loaf every day. Our household tears through a loaf of bread in a day and sourdough is my favorite.
Most delivery places require $10/min tickets. A 20 min delivery is a 40 min round-trip. @$9/hour for the delivery guy, that is $6 in costs. In other-words, -$1. This is before you've paid for the actual product.
That doesn't even get to the question of "cross-town" traffic in SF. Without some sort of multi-point distribution getting accross town in 20 min would be "interesting". Mission + SOMA of course NBD.
Of course the improbability drives the PR value. Somewhere between "too good to be true" and "will it break, in an interesting way?".
This works fine in Sweden which has a deregulated taxi market (=no shortage of available taxi drivers), but it wouldn't work in SF which has such an artificially constrained supply.
The trip may take marginally longer than if just one order were being delivered, but it ends up fulfilling five or six orders with one trip. The cost per order ends up being decreased to a reasonable level.
If they get funding they have the staying power to test the market and potentially find profitability. That's the big big advantage of using "OPM" when starting a business. Not guaranteed but not a non starter either.
One big benefit of starting at a low price below costs (if you can) is that it keeps others out who think "we can't make money doing this".
Tartine has been regarded as one of the best bakeries in SF for a number of years, having cultivated its reputation and following for over 10 years. It commands high prices not just because of quality, but also by its brand.
This is relevant not merely to pick apart your example, but more as a sort of chicken-and-egg challenge that faces many food service businesses. By default, bakeries are a low margin businesses, making it difficult to survive the long years you need to build the reputation that enables higher margins. The businesses that have circumvented this struggle have done so by such means as owner/chef fame.
With that said, I'm confident there are other ways of quickly achieving high-margin status. OP's company will have to be clever in doing so. It's unclear to me that delivery is a sufficient vehicle in this respect, except in bulk where ACME dominates.
I think there is something here actually.
For example it's a constant annoyance to me that when I get chinese food or sushi from the same places on a regular basis I actually have to make a phone call and talk to someone. At one place where they know me they actually make me give them my phone number which allows them to pull me up in their system. Just having to recite my phone number annoys me to no end.
I am sure there are obviously people who have solved the problem of using a smartphone or a simple web interface to help order pickup food (or delivery). But they haven't made any headway in the major city suburb where I am located.
For the life of me I don't understand why someone doesn't create a "bingo card creator"  type business to serve this market at a reasonable monthly fee. Most ideas on HN are "start by getting funded or incubated" as opposed to things that actually could be sold, proven, and then scaled. Write the app then knock on some doors and sell it (after giving it away to test restaurants for free).
Sometimes called on HN "lifestyle" business.
The thing that makes it so easy is that it operates on fax. It seems antiquated, but that means any restaurant with a phone line can offer all the modern conveniences without even having a computer on-site. Small business owners are super busy and constantly being pitched to buy services they don't have time to set up, but this takes no setup -- sign this contract giving us $x for any new orders we send your way, tell us your delivery radius, put a fax machine in your store, and you're now online. GrubHub can do the hard work of putting their menu online and running the website.
When a new order comes in, the restaurant gets a fax (and fax machines confirm receipt, so GrubHub knows it got there). You, as the customer, now get online ordering, re-ordering of previous orders with just a few clicks or taps, prepay with a credit card (or not), etc.
So the questions is, why didn't I know that?
Back when we were selling (in the early 90's) advertising to restaurants and shops we provided them with window decals and things for placement at the register to alert customers. This isn't happening here. Also the other place isn't on grubhub. Nor have I seen others just checked a few.
Grubhub looks good. But I was thinking of something that would be an app specifically for the restaurant. Developer writes app for restaurant (using same one that has been developed for the test market) and customer downloads app. Or an html5 page I guess would work as well hosted by the "aas" provider.
Do you know what grubhub charges the restaurant?
Next time I'm picking up I'm going to ask the owner how it is working. (They have already given thumbs down to groupon and a few other things they tried).
The great thing about automatically building webapps for delivery restaurants is that this can work even if you have just 1 client, while Grubhub only works because they have lots of registered restaurants (and, as you said, it doesn't work, because the restaurant doesn't tell anybone it is on Grubhub, probably because of the fees or the inexistence of a unique readable URL to the restaurant's page on Grubhub, or because if the restaurant's client go to Grubhub he will see a lot of other restaurants besides the first).
FDRAaaS (Food Delivery Restaurant Apps as a Service), is the blog service, while Grubhub is Facebook.
Who is everyone?
Is "everyone" the target customer?
Are is "everyone" startup people, programmers, hackers, VC's etc?
The fact that there are already sushi restaurants doesn't prevent new ones from opening everyday and doing business and making money.
"The great thing about automatically building webapps for delivery restaurants is that this can work"
Exactly. Not everything needs to be a home run.
"probably because of the fees"
Right. And this is especially a big problem with the mentality of the small business owner. Not wanting to cannibalize existing customers.
Building the app and charging a fixed monthly fee is the way to go at least to start. And make it easy for the restaurant to make menu changes etc. In the beginning you would have to perhaps input all the items yourself because the small business won't want to take the time. And have to prototype at no charge to prove it actually has benefit.
Let me know if you end up doing this.
Pricing to me says that there is opportunity in this market. (Assumes article has correct info of course I haven't verified..)
A lot of restaurant owners agree that is ineffective. Tom DeSimone owns the tiny RBBTS Café in Manhattan. He says the food delivery website connects his restaurant to law firms and banks. Big companies that use vouchers for websites like Seamless to reward their employees."
If this is a good reason for restaurants to stick to Grubhub and alike, then there's also an opportunity for marketing websites/communities for delivery restaurants. This must not be tied to a delivery/charging network like Grubhub.
I call in orders now--or just wait till I'm there; they're pretty fast.
You can even order from bakeries (at least in the Portland area). I use them all the time for food delivery, and it's rare an order takes more than 45 minutes to complete.
Me: <dials number>
Them: <Answers phone, sees caller ID> "The usual?"
Me: "Yup, thanks"
Them: <Delivers pizza in 20 minutes>
Seems like recently startups are finally starting to get to that level of knowing the customer...
Gets the caller id and when person who answers hits a button prints out an order form with the customers name.
Later version could actually store info about the customer in the device.
The point of this device is to have as little disruption to the existing work flow as possible. Just plug it in to the incoming phone line.
Probably could be prototyped using a small linux box where you get a local restaurant that you know ("you" means person who does this) to validate the idea. Small box isn't the final product or form factor only a way to see if the idea provides value.
Perhaps that's the key: scan GitHub/SourceForge (is SF still around, anyway?) for an OSS base you can build this new app on. It has to exist already. The main challenge will then be selling it to restaurants.
From what I understand, the restaurant doesn't even need an Internet connection. The service can send them the orders by fax.
I hope it stays this simple.
No account is mandatory, although such functionality is offered if you want to save your preferred pizza toppings, your address, and so forth for greater convenience during future orders.
You can prepay, if you want, or just pay the delivery driver once the pizzas have been delivered.
I'm not really sure what needs to be "validated" here. This approach has been successfully used by many other organizations offering the exact same type of service.
Thank you all so much for your interest in this!
The spike in interest from HN has been totally overwhelming, so while we are thrilled with the validation of this concept, we are running out of stock and falling behind on delivery schedule.
I'll be sure to reach out individually to everyone who submitted an order.
We can't wait to launch this service in a way that can handle demand spikes like this -- thank you all for yor support.
Edit: for reference, we've had orders for 150 loaves of bread in 2 hours.
Given the complexities of bread, it would interesting to hear a post mortem about ways you might both account for spikes without compromising delivery times, delivery scheduling to make maximum use of delivery resources, and even recipe variations to support those goals.
I understand that in a production environment they will be more process driven than my own kitchen, but I wonder what the timing variation is in the typical small commercial bakery. i.e., from start of mixing to fresh bread out the oven, how repeatable is the time to completion?
We eat a lot of bread in my house. I would love a few loafs delivered every other day for a reasonable rate like how they deliver my newspaper.
> Beyond bread, we offer a rotating selection of coffees, cheeses, cured meats, oils and vinegars and more. Each is locally produced and carefully selected.
Businesses that lose money on every sale are not survivable.
They need to track all of their costs and see if it's going to be remotely profitable.
Profit doesn't just magically appear, costs and pricing have to eventually face reality. Sooner, the better.
Spending more money does not necessarily make a business any better. That's like these noob business people that buy stock before they sell any of it... An example of a horrible waste of cash.
Without profit, it's not a business, it's an idea-guy dream.
When you say "validating the concept" what do you mean? That if you get a high amount of orders you can deliver?
Because obviously you can't depend on getting placement on HN or equivalent to drive business. And the cost of customer acquisition could kill your model assuming the price point stays the same.
They seemed swamped (they were 10 minutes late and were visibly frazzled) but upbeat. Bread was decent.
I suspect that if you go into pastries, you probably can command a higher margin (I really dislike keeping desserts in the apartment, and "dessert on demand" definitely would be appealing)
Esp delivered by quadcopter.
You can also buy frozen or vacuum-packed half-baked bread from a supermarket, keep it around, and make some very nice fresh bread by sticking it in the oven for 20 minutes.
Maybe they most likely won't run afoul or attract any legal attention for this test run for a single day. If it proves to be popular then it wouldn't make sense to do it out of someone's home kitchen, of course.
Not that 2 minutes makes a difference, but the numbers should be consistent.
I like 18 minutes because it sounds precise.
If you read the homepage, you'll see their tag line is "Fresh bread, snacks and coffee beans. Delivered in 18 minutes." Now, let's remove the baked goods accoutrement for a second and focus on the "delivered in 18 minutes or less". Isn't this the very real problem Amazon is trying to solve for themselves? Isn't there tremendous value to dynamic delivery logistics?
To be clear, I don't know these people, nor do I know if delivery logistics is their endgame. If they're bakers, then all the previous critique is warranted.
But if I lived in SF, I would sign up to see what they're up to.
Yeah, it was incredibly depressing to visit a really nice web page, become interested, and then read the top comment which basically dismisses the entire thing as "not hacker-ish" enough. Mind you, that comment is coming from a guy who blogs about mostly political topics...
Snark off. There is a viable business model for deliveries given correct demographics, population density, etc.--and a willingness to pay for the incremental costs of the delivery. Works widely for some things (e.g. Pizza, Chinese food). Works as a niche for grocery delivery-usually in combination with a physical store presence of some sort. Delivery models work, usually as an adjunct to a physical store, but it's situational. Delivering individual video rentals like Kozmo did (among other things) is probably not one of those situations.
I don't know if it is possible to make it profitable, but it is definitely a service I would use. It is a pain keeping bread on hand because the good stuff only keeps for a day or two.
...in French speaking regions.
Home Sensors + ifttt + Bread Box would be a good alternative for morning alarms :-)
Or make it integrated with the navigation app on my cell phone. Based on traffic status, it'll schedule bread baking. After I park my car near my office, I can pick some freshly baked bread on my way.
Or integrate with a voting system that hooks with GitHub. The person who makes the most awesome PR of the day gets a basket of healthy bread delivered to her/his home next morning.
Now if only I wasn't based in Italy...
But this is a startup that jumped the shark of meaning of startups. If they told me they had angel money, I'd be very concerned about investing in startups myself (if only I could)
which remind's me, I need to feed my sour starter today!
I'll give it a shot though.
EDIT: See the update now, seeing as how they had my phone, it would have been cool if they texted me.
YC has funded delivery-as-a-service before. If you were going for that, a stunt like this could be brilliant.