Today Maple, the food delivery startup backed by David Chang and millions in investments, lands on the rapidly growing scene of food delivery services in New York City. This is the service that doesn't deliver from any specific restaurant, but instead – similar to Sprig or Spoonrocket in San Francisco – promises restaurant quality meals from a menu developed by big name chefs. Chang is of course one of those chefs, but he's also signed on Mark Ladner, Brooks Headley, and Dan Kluger to serve on its board of directors and weigh in on the food.
That being said, don't expect the menu to resemble a Momofuku menu. The dishes are created by Soa Davies, who spent many years working at Le Bernardin, with input from Chang and the other chefs. These chefs may also create occasional specials, but for the most part the dishes are straightforward, complete entrees like pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and green beans, shrimp biryani with kale salad, or cheese enchiladas, the sorts of things Maple's founders think you'd want to eat "every day."
When Maple first announced itself back in November, it promised delivery in 15 minutes or less, but provided little explanation of how it would actually do that. Now at launch, that 15 minute promise has become a more reasonable 30 minutes, and the company's founders have explained in much more detail how the whole thing works. Here's the rundown:
The app, which offers both lunch and dinner, provides three entree choices per meal. These choices change daily (though some dishes may end up on frequent rotation), and always include one vegetarian option. Each meal costs a flat $12 for lunch or $15 for dinner, tax, tip, and delivery included, putting Maple on the very reasonable end of all the delivery services out there – by comparison, Caviar charges about $5 just to deliver, on top what the food costs. Then again, Caviar is arguably very different, since it offers food from actual restaurants.
To keep it speedy, Maple partly relies on technology. An app tracks the timing of everything, from cooking to delivering, and maps out the fastest route, factoring in things like traffic and even the time it takes to get to a sixth floor walk-up, and learning as it goes. Deliveries go out in batches from a commissary kitchen with delivery people on either bikes or on foot who follow the route they're given.
But here's the big catch: Maple also manages such speedy delivery by limiting the delivery zone to the neighborhood where the kitchen is. For now, that neighborhood is the Financial District, and Maple only delivers below Chambers Street. Eventually the team hopes to expand to other neighborhoods, with a network of satellite kitchens, but they'll keep it in the FiDi until they're sure the whole thing works smoothly.
So, for anyone who lives or works below Chambers, this could be worth a shot. It requires registering online, and downloading the app. Everyone else can take heart in the fact that New York is quickly catching up to San Francisco in the sheer volume of delivery services becoming available. Just this past week we got Arcade, which delivers one dish from one restaurant a day, and today Uber launches UberEats in NYC, which promises a daily changing menu of a couple "curated" dishes from local restaurants.