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Are appliance companies ready for change?

That’s a question I think about a lot. I mean sure, many realize digitization of the kitchen is underway and the resulting shift in behavior from consumers will be significant, but I sometimes wonder if their thinking is too limited.

To get an understanding of what I mean by this, think about what happened during the transition to digital broadcast spectrum and the impact on the TV business.  Not only did you get an explosion of thousands of new channels, but the more significant change over time has been a complete reinvention of the home video and entertainment business model. The emergence of interactive services, video on demand, targeted advertising, TV commerce and more created an exponentially bigger market while also creating a new host of competitors to take on the incumbents.

I’ve talked about this comparison between digital living room services and digital food services before. At least year’s Smart Kitchen Summit on a panel about using RF/solid state cooking technology, I asked Yuval Ben-Haim, CEO of Goji Solutions, about the analog between digital services in the living room and those in the kitchen.

“RF cooking is a platform,” said Ben-Haim. “It’s no longer just a cooking appliance; it is a gateway to offer services and added value to the consumer.”

While Ben-Haim was talking about a specific technology – solid state cooking – I think his quote applies more broadly to kitchen digitization. Whether it’s food replenishment through your fridge or the ability of an appliance powered by software to cook like a chef, the opportunity to offer physical subscriptions, digital offerings and everything in between puts the appliance companies in potentially entirely new lines of business.

While startups have been ahead of the bigs in thinking like this for some time, one of the bigger companies eyeing an entry into entirely new service models is Miele. This past weekend, The Spoon was the first to write about Miele’s intentions to unveil a new food delivery service at IFA, the big European appliance show, in August.  The company is partnering – and giving support to – a German startup called MChef to roll the new offering out.

That it’s Miele to be the first big appliance company to roll out food delivery shouldn’t be that surprising. After all, it’s Miele that’s also the first company rolling out solid-state cooking technology into the consumer market, the same technology Ben-Haim refers to as a “platform.”

Long term, I expect other appliance brands to jump on board and offer a variety of new digital services. Much like the Comcast of today doesn’t much resemble the Comcast of the mid-90s, I expect the Mieles and other big appliance companies of tomorrow will be vastly companies from what they are today. Same goes for big food companies.

It’s a revolution we’re following closely, and we’re glad to have you along for the ride.

The home appliance business isn’t the only food-related industry being disrupted by technology. Restaurant-related innovations are seeing a huge influx of cash from venture investors, and one of the hottest sectors right now is restaurant robotics.

And just this morning we discovered a new startup looking to create fast-food robotics. The company, Ono Food, just received a funding round from three VCs: Lemnos, Compound and Pathbreaker. While the details on the new company’s tech is vague, the brief description of the company sounds like it’s aimed at fast food:

Ono Food Co. is building robotic systems to revolutionize the way we eat. We’re on a mission to create and serve delicious meals with high-quality ingredients at an affordable price.

You can read my story on Ono Food here.

Speaking of fast food disruption, it’s not always about robotics. New eating patterns and delivery formats are creating new opportunities as well for big chains, and so chicken sandwich darling Chick-fil-A thought it’d dip its toes into the meal kit business. It seems a bit of an odd idea at first – a fast food company with pick up windows ready to serve fully prepared meals offering ready to prepare meal kits – but as Chris Albrecht argues in his piece, it may not be a crazy as it first sounds.

In case you haven’t heard yet, we’ve released our first draft of the schedule for Smart Kitchen Summit. We’ll be exploring all the things I’ve written about in this newsletter – from robot restaurants to food delivery to connected kitchen services – and much more. You’ll want to use a special discount code – NEWSLETTER – to get 25% off of tickets at the Smart Kitchen Summit website(you can also go direct to Eventbrite with this link, where the discount is already applied).

I also can’t believe it’s less than two weeks to SKS Japan. I’ll be heading to Tokyo next month for the second annual event . I can’t wait to talk to folks from companies like CookPad, Oisix and Panasonic about how the digital food revolution is changing the Japanese market. If you want to attend SKS Japan, it’s not too late. You can use the discount code SKSJ2018A at the SKS Japan site here.

Finally, if you’re in the Seattle area, our next meetup is on the future of restaurants. Not only will we be talking about some cook topics with cutting edge chef Eric Rivera, but he’ll also be cooking a multicourse meal for those who attend. There aren’t many spots for this one, so you’ll want to move fast.

Thanks for reading.


In the 07/24/2018 edition:

Lemnos Backs Robot Restaurant Startup Ono

By Michael Wolf on Jul 24, 2018 09:47 am
Restaurant robots are kinda hot. The latest evidence of this? Yet another robot restaurant startup called Ono Food Company just got funded, this time from Lemnos, Compound and Pathbreaker ventures.

ezCater Acquires French Startup GoCater to Expand into Europe

By Chris Albrecht on Jul 23, 2018 09:01 pm
When ezCater raised $100 million last month, the corporate catering company said it would use some of that money to expand internationally. True to its word, ezCater announced today that it is acquiring Paris-based GoCater to gain an immediate foothold in Europe.

Chick-fil-A is Paving the Way for Fast Food Meal Kits

By Catherine Lamb on Jul 23, 2018 01:00 pm
Today Chick-fil-A announced that they would roll out “Mealtime Kits” in 150 Atlanta area locations this August, making them the first fast-food company to enter the crowded meal kit market. Each Chick-fil-A box will contain fresh, pre-measured ingredients to make one of five meals, from chicken enchiladas to chicken flatbread to pan-roasted chicken.

We Can Uber-Ize That: Cheff Applies the Sharing Economy to Personal Chefs

By Catherine Lamb on Jul 23, 2018 10:00 am
“Almost five years ago nobody had a personal driver, and now we have Uber. Why can’t we do that with personal chefs?” That’s the question that prompted 18-year-old Abbie Krech to drop out of college and start Cheff; a web platform which connects professional chefs with individuals who can’t — or don’t want to — cook.

Woowa Brothers CEO: Delivery Robots Should Take Your Recycling Too

By Chris Albrecht on Jul 23, 2018 07:53 am
When we talk about delivery robots, it’s often a one-way transaction: a robot delivering food (or whatever) to a customer. But KimBong-jin, CEO and Founder of Korean company Woowa Brothers, thinks the convenience is two-way, with robots taking items like recycling away from the customer.

Miele To Launch Food Delivery Service At IFA

By Michael Wolf on Jul 21, 2018 01:07 pm
At last year’s IFA, German appliance maker Miele made news by announcing the first consumer oven to incorporate solid state cooking in the Dialog. Their follow up act? Getting into food delivery business. According to a preview announcement released by Miele, the company is partnering up with a German startup called MChef to deliver meals.

Food Tech News Roundup: Just Eggs, Mealpal, and IndieBio

By Catherine Lamb on Jul 21, 2018 06:00 am
It’s that time again! Time for us to take a breath, take a beat, and look back at the week. At the Spoon we covered a large swathe of stories, from food delivery robots to cultured meat and milk news to the drama around meal kit company Chef’d’s sudden shut-down.

OrderOut Is Making It Easier for Restaurants to Do Third-Party Delivery

By Jennifer Marston on Jul 20, 2018 03:00 pm
In case you’ve been hiding in a bunker these last few years, delivery is becoming the new norm where restaurants are concerned. A recent survey noted 86 percent of consumers use off-premises services at least monthly, and food delivery is projected to grow 12 percent per year over the next five years.

Cargo and Uber Form Exclusive Partnership to Sell Snacks on the Go

By Chris Albrecht on Jul 20, 2018 01:57 pm
Cargo and Uber announced an exclusive global partnership yesterday that will see Cargo’s snack vending boxes inside more cars in the ride hailing giant’s fleet. Cargo allows drivers to make a little extra scratch from their driving gig by selling snacks and small sundries from their car’s center console.

Catch Video from the New Harvest Cultured Meat Conference

By Chris Albrecht on Jul 20, 2018 11:56 am
You can tell a market sector is heating up when it gets its own conference. Cellular agriculture, which includes cultured meat (or lab meat or clean meat or whatever you want to call it) is definitely getting hotter as people gather today and tomorrow at the New Harvest 2018 conference over at MIT.

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