Having food delivered used to mean picking up the phone and placing an order to your local pizzeria or Chinese restaurant. Today, consumers have access to a growing number of delivery services that make it quick and easy to order a wide range of foods catered to any number of occasions, budgets or dietary restrictions.
GrubHub Seamless, which combined two rival companies in a merger last year, delivers from about 25,000 restaurants in 500 cities. Smaller, local delivery operations are popping up in cities all over the country and some are beginning to expand. Cater2.me, which specializes in corporate lunch deliveries, began in San Francisco and has added operations in New York City, Austin, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C.
Cater2.me sources its offerings from local purveyors ranging from mom-and-pop eateries to food trucks and farmers market vendors. Eschewing chains and focusing on hand-crafted, local food allows the company to offer a wide variety of options, with some clients receiving lunch deliveries every day of the workweek, said Garrett Cottrell, head of Cater2.me’s D.C. office.
Partnering with small, local restaurants appeals to consumers looking for something outside the pizza-and-Chinese norm, and helps local eateries compete with the big chains. “For…the independent guys who are having a really hard time competing against chains, I think this is a great way for them to expand their reach, expand their relevance and to enter an area in an industry that requires a lot of time management and resources that they wouldn’t necessarily have to expend,” said Maeve Webster, senior director of Datassential.
Cater2.me finds vendors to partner with by searching for popular local spots that have high ratings on Yelp and other review sites. After a lengthy on-boarding process, the vendor delivers a practice meal to the Cater2.me offices. “We’re a company of foodies, and I think that movement has really influenced the kind of food that we’re providing,” Cottrell said.
Another type of delivery service with a strong foodie following is the growing snack subscription segment. Companies such as NatureBox and Graze deliver curated selections of snacks based on a consumer’s favorite flavors or, in the case of NatureBox, an algorithm that recommends snacks based on customer data.
“I think we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” NatureBox CEO and cofounder Gautam Gupta said in an interview with Fast Company. “[The snack pantry] is giving us an indication of who the customer is and what products they like. From there, we’re able to improve our snack recommendation engine.”
Webster said snack subscription services can be a time-saver for ambitious foodies. “I think these subscription services are a great opportunity for foodies to be surprised, to experience new foods that they might not be able to experience on their own, they they might have a hard time finding.”
Having snacks or meals delivered also appeals to the growing number of consumers looking to eat healthier. Recent data from GrubHub shows an uptick in demand for fresh-pressed juices and foods with chia, quinoa and almond milk, and Webster said the healthy eating trend has “definitely helped some of the more niche delivery systems pop up.”
A recent New York Post article on specialized food delivery services mentions Healthy Hand, a New York City-based company geared toward people with special or restrictive diets. Consumers can search the database of restaurant meals based on common criteria such as vegan or low-carb and have food delivered for a small fee. For $28 a month the company will craft personalized recommendations based on a range of highly-specialized diets, such as ketogenic or gene-based nutrition. “We’re a digital dietitian meets personal assistant,” founder Chris Mirabile said.
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