It is a widely known phenomenon that most New York professionals do not really have a legitimate lunch break during a work day. Having a full one hour for the much-needed refreshment in middle of the day is still a luxury for most here. It is only appropriate then that this city is now the place with the most number of food delivery enterprises in the world. Services like Seamless, GrubHub and a little help from Yelp, the working professionals of New York City have an option to choose from a host of world cuisine eateries on any given day. And all this needs is a smartphone, an app, a few clicks and for the customer to collect the delivery from their office lobby floor.
But anybody who has ordered lunch at work even once knows that food delivery scene in New York or for that matter anywhere else is not great. The biggest turn offs could be the packaging and quality. An enormous amount of call backs and complaints are regarding delivery time, and with NY traffic, you can never be sure if the food is going to be delivered in 5 minutes or 50. And finally, there are some ‘must-never-be-delivered’ dishes like sushi, particularly on a humid NY summer day. All these problems are not just at the food receiver’s end. Most restaurants also face varied issues when it comes to delivery, especially orders taken by an app, without any human connect. The bottom line is that for most restaurants, delivery is a secondary source of income after what they make from their sit-down patrons. To make a perfect delivery is never a top priority for a restaurant.
Right? But the exact opposite can be said about Maple, a unique restaurant startup in New York that has taken almost two years to perfect its delivery mechanism. The startups that compete with Maple, Seamless, for instance, are a platform for various restaurants for a digital ordering experience. Whereas Maple boasts of a ‘full-length restaurant experience’ which means it has its own app, five neighborhood kitchens in Manhattan, delivery staff on payroll and special menu. The menu rotates daily maintaining certain staples that have become customer favorites over time. The dishes are designed keeping in mind portability and time that will be taken to deliver the food. The software that runs this show can track orders, chefs, and delivery staff in order to optimize the full operational cycle leveraging artificial intelligence and cloud computing. Perhaps the most striking feature of all is that Maple has absolutely no sit-down area. In a way, it is the ultimate Internet Restaurant.
When Maple was launched, in 2014, by co-founders Caleb Merkl and Akshay Navle, the delivery area was restricted to Manhattan’s financial district, the southernmost tip of the island which is densely populated and marketing was largely through word of mouth. The firm had since raised $25 million and expanded to everywhere below 14th street. David Chang, founder of Momofuku group and legendary in the food circle of New York is said to be highly invested in the firm. The founder duo is now contemplating moving Maple outside the city and maybe even adding a dinner options line.