Whether you work in Midtown Manhattan or an Ohio suburb, your daily lunchtime ritual probably features a few hurdles. Maybe it’s elbowing through crowds of people to get your soggy deli sandwich or waiting in a line that wraps around the door for one chopped salad. In a more car-centric area, there will almost always be traffic, red lights, and busy parking lots to navigate. Bottom line: getting lunch can be a pain in the ass for the average office worker.
Now, however, there are multiple companies peddling alternative services to corporate offices in what’s a cross between delivery and catering.
Sweetgreen is one such company that’s been getting a lot of press recently for its new service called Outpost. For the delivery-catering hybrid, Sweetgreen partners with companies and sets up drop-off points for food at said companies’ offices. Currently, WeWork, Nike, and Headspace are partners. There is no fee for companies to participate, and no delivery fee for the workers ordering food.
Employees use the Sweetgreen website or app to choose their meal and specify their location (e.g., WeWork Grand Central). Typically, orders need to be placed between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., depending on location. One hour after placing an order, the customer can go to the drop-off point, which is a simple, IKEA-like shelf unit, and grab their order.
Sweetgreen currently operates 15 Outposts across the U.S. Right now they’re mostly in markets like LA and NYC, but the company says it plans to increase the number to 100 by the end of 2018, and to 3,000 by the end of 2019.
Getting lunch delivered sans a third-party service is looking to be a trend to watch in the near future. While they’re not a restaurant, Minnow (formerly called Kadabra, which was formerly known as Veebie) makes IoT-enabled kiosks, called “pods,” that can be stationed in high-traffic public places like office lobbies. As The Spoon’s head honcho, Michael Wolf said, it’s basically “an Amazon locker for food.”
Customers order from a participating restaurant or delivery service, who will notify them when their food is ready and waiting at their designated Minnow pod. Each pod is made up of multiple cubbies that securely store individual orders. Users then unlock their cubby, grab their food, and go back to work. The company just wrapped beta testing for its second prototype, which was available in Portland, ME. No word yet on what happens now that the beta stage is over, but the company did just get $1 million in seed funding earlier this year, so we’ll likely be hearing a lot more from them in the future.
Byte Foods, meanwhile, doesn’t work directly with restaurants, but it is trying to get better lunch options to employees by installing smart fridges in offices. Byte pushes the “eat local” angle pretty hard, so San Franciscans with a fridge in their workplace will find labels like Blue Bottle and Sinbad Specialty Foods in stock. To purchase food, users just swipe a credit card and grab what they want out of the fridge. Byte stocks offices daily and donates the unused food to shelters at day’s end.
Since Byte is more “grab and go,” your options would have far less variety than would be the case with a full-on restaurant like Sweetgreen, and less choice as well. That said, if your day is full of back-to-back meetings, getting a falafel out of a fridge is a lot faster than waiting an hour to head down to the lobby and get your salad. In fact, I think the timing issue will be a big part of whether users find this delivery-catering hybrid more convenient than logging onto Grubhub or stepping out and waiting in line for 15 minutes. And that will vary not just by city but by individual location.