Cooking takes time, but it’s also the prep work that adds up. There’s the meal planning, and the trip to the grocery store. Then there’s the washing, chopping, and prepping.
Some people love the process, but others view ordering delivery food as a much more appealing venture.
Until this week, on-demand food startup Munchery had focused on that delivery food market. Its mission was to make healthy food affordable, anywhere. Instead of picking up the phone and ordering a pizza, Munchery would deliver a filet of salmon with a side of potatoes.
It turns out, delivery is often the fall-back, not the preference.
“Whenever we asked customers what they would do on nights they weren’t ordering Munchery, 75 per cent would say they would cook,” said Tri Tran, CEO of the four-year-old startup.
On Tuesday, Munchery launched a new Ready-to-Cook meal kit that contains pre-sliced and diced ingredients in perfect portions, saving its users a trip to the grocery store but giving them a chance to fill their house with the delicious smells of cooking.
“The joy of cooking is now in our customers’ hands in 10-15 minutes tops. They’re going to sauté and maybe stir-fry some meat. Anything that takes a lot of time, like cutting vegetables, we have a prep kitchen that will do that for you,” Tran told Business Insider.
Competitor Blue Apron has seen success with its cooking kits, and it’s now valued at more than $US2 billion. Instead of making a weekly run to the grocery store, Blue Apron sends a weekly subscription box filled with food and different recipes.
The only thing Munchery is copying from Blue Apron is the idea that people love cooking food, but are too busy. Otherwise, it’s an entirely new product — and one that it hopes will appeal to a different consumer base.
For starters, Munchery is offering its meal kits on-demand and scheduled, like it does its normal prepared meals. You can order a kit to be delivered in 30 minutes, or schedule it for 7 p.m., when you know you’ll be back from soccer practice and need to feed everyone.
“No shopping. No prepping. No waste,” said Pascal Rigo, the founder of Starbucks-owned La Boulange chain who joined the startup as its chief customer experience officer in early October. “You have this kind of achievement that you have for yourself when you cook at home.”
Also unlike other services, Munchery doesn’t lock users into a subscription plan. While some Blue Apron and Plated users have liked the subscription model, others have felt the “mental weight of having this box of eight meals you have to get through and cook,” said CB Insights analyst Michael Dempsey.
“I don’t think it’s as big an impact for Sprig and Maple as it is for Blue Apron and Plated. I think they’re signalling that ‘we can do this, and do it on-demand,'” Dempsey said.
The third advantage is its partner chefs: Rigo, and Charles Phan, chef-owner of The Slanted Door restaurant in San San Francisco. Instead of being easy instruction versions of the classic, the menu at Munchery features restaurant-quality dishes from Phan and Rigo, but in a ready-to-cook version at home.
Each kit is prepared for two people, and runs between $US18 – $US24, Tran said. Desserts cost $US9. Right now, the ready-to-cook kits are launching in San Francisco only.
“I grew up watching my mum cook. I didn’t have the option to call a delivery place in ’60s Vietnam,” Phan said. “Now we’re just so busy we stopped being in the kitchen, but this will bring us back.”