Subscribe me to delivery meals

As a millennial living in the Bay Area who works in the tech industry, I have some disposable income. However, I do not have much time to diligently research, plan, and follow-through with a meal plan that could lead to some health goals. A basic plan would be one that limits caloric intake, for example. Food, as much as I enjoy it, is often of second-tier importance when work piles up. Frequently, I end up eating around the restaurants near me for lunch, and when I have to work late, sometimes I eat out for dinners too. In the process, I discovered that my monthly spending on food is not insignificant, and the variety of meals is limited since I dine in the same restaurants, and in an effort to reduce cognitive load, I choose the same meals.

In the Bay Area, there are meal delivery startups galore (Munchery, Sprig, Spoonrocket, Bento, Farmhill …) that seem to compete on price, (ethnic) flavor, and “healthiness”. However, I can’t seem to find any that allows me to pick my choices much in advance (say at the beginning of the week for the whole week), so I can do away with having to choose what to eat while I’m busy, and be delighted when the food arrives; at the same time, since I might end up eating at least 5–10 meals each week outside, it would be great if I could get some sort of discount if I were to commit to one meal delivery service. I do not want to have to choose every day, but I prefer to know in advance what I will be eating, so there is some consistency in my schedule to look forward to, especially during busy work weeks. Also, I want to know that I will be rewarded, if I buy in bulk and commit to one service.

Upon examining the meal delivery service business model, I understand that the complexity of efficiently delivering meals on time, and forecasting meal demand are challenges. Cost is largely controlled by benefits from the economies of scale in the mass production of food. Combining this realization with my meal needs, I propose, therefore, a meal delivery subscription payment plan that includes these features: (1) payment in advance, say at the beginning of the month, (2) commitment to a minimum number of meals, say at least 20 a month, (3) the ability for the subscriber to review and choose meals on a weekly cycle, (4) subscriber pick-up of meals at set restaurant locations for a lower cost, and (5) the option of converting meal plan meals to restaurant meals.

  • (1) to (3) should help the meal delivery company with forecasting demand, and with subscriber payment in advance, cash flow could be more easily managed.
  • (4) should help the meal delivery companies run more efficiently if they could deliver to fewer places while serving more people. By passing the savings forward to subscribers and giving them an an overall lower meal cost, the subscribers could be incented to pick-up their own food if it is close by

Where would the meal delivery companies set up the pick-up locations, and why the sudden introduction of restaurant meals?

  • For (4), meal delivery companies could partner with local restaurants and set up kiosks to be filled with their meals. These restaurants commit to act as pick-up points, and will allow subscribers to dine in the restaurant. This way, the meal delivery services would drive foot-traffic to the restaurant’s door, which is good for the restaurant. An office worker who is a meal plan subscriber would now also be able to go dine at a local restaurant with her coworkers without feeling left out.
  • For (5), I recognize that while we could choose our meals in advance, sometimes, we get sick of the menu, and appreciate spontaneity in making our food choices. In that case, why not allow the meal plan subscriber who walk into a restaurant to try out the restaurant’s menu? Since the meal delivery company already has a partnership with the restaurant, they can strike up some level of meal equivalency that works. On the subscriber side, they may just have to trade in meals on the meal plan for a restaurant meal without having to worry about tips or payment. This could all be administered and managed through an app, for example.

Delving further, sometimes people who pick up meals during lunch might want to pick up meals for dinner as well if they know they have a long day ahead. This means that the kiosks’ supply should ideally be managed accordingly. Meal delivery companies could thus stock more meals as a rule of thumb, and

  • to deal with potential wastage issues, could allow meals to be purchased for the kiosks after a certain time (i.e. it implies that meal subscribers should pick up their meals before a certain time for guarantees of their meals being available); to keep the restaurants happy, the meal delivery companies can split the profit with the restaurants;
  • to deal with potential understocking concerns, meal delivery companies could allow subscribers to claim a meal equivalency from the restaurant for a set amount of money, thus, subscribers would always have something to eat in a generally timely fashion;
  • in general, monitor the supply of kiosks and fill them up as appropriate with runners carrying extra meals.

In conclusion, as a young working professional, I would love for my food intake to be more easily managed in the dimensions of budget, health, and variety. I am willing to commit to a set amount each month, if I know in return I am receiving a dependable service where I am rewarded for loyalty (i.e. lower bulk price), where I trust that the food is generally healthy, and where I still get variety for the meal plan, as well as the option for spontaneity when I want to. Meal delivery companies, please make budgeting for food as easy for me as figuring out my rent and car payments. I shall have my wallet ready when you are ready to offer something similar as proposed above.

An attempt to visually summarize my ideas can be found below.

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