Food Nation

We spent a fair amount of time in Brooklyn this past weekend.  I am always amazed of the changing economy when we drive thru Brooklyn.  We happened to meet up with someone in Park Slope.  While we were waiting we strolled into this store called The Walk-In Cookbook.  They have been open for three weeks.

They built a store front around one of the latest food concepts that have cropped up over the past year.  A recipe combined bundled with a measured quantity of ingredients to make a meal for two (or more) at home.  Everything is fresh and you get to choose your options for dinner.  Here you can just walk by on the way home and pick it up and you can also order for delivery a few times a week depending on your choice. 

This is not new.  Plated does the same thing.  Delivering fresh ingredients already portioned out to your home with a recipe.  Blue Apron is another one and Good Eggs too.  Quinciple is a little different.  I am trying that out this week.  They deliver the farmers market to your door and I see that as a supplement to what you already pick up every week.  Kind of like an added bonus to your grocery list. 

These businesses are all basically the same but each have something a tad different.  They are fulfillment centers.  I personally did not invest in any of them.  I just could not wrap up my arms around the ability for these businesses to truly scale.  Won't people get bored with the whole concept?  How many times will it not be used and sit in the fridge and the customers will be bummed about it.  Once you start to really get into cooking will people really want to be use their recipes each week or come up with their own?  Lots of constant customer acquisition.  Will the products delivered really be consistently good?  Won't large grocery stores start doing this themselves like stores added websites and provided ecommerce from their inventories as an added revenue driver? 

All these questions went rambling around my head so I passed.  I really think these businesess are best local too.  The first company I saw do this was Freshocracy in 2011 and that delivered the portioned out food with recipes that came from farm to table not a food delivery service like Baldor.  I loved the concept but it was almost impossible to make the margins work. 

Really interesting all the food businesses that are starting to mature.  Where they end up will be interesting.  Will they change consumer behavior ( super hard ) and is there room for this many of these businesses.  Have to say I think the local neighborhood storefront is the most clever. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    totally agree with your analysis about this being an investment-but I love the trend. Almost the only way I can wrap my arms around something like this would be a standardized franchise model. Whole Foods has the brand to do it, and the money to set up smaller 7Eleven type stores that could cater to the people that wanted this. I also think it works in urban ares, and not exurban or rural. Need a lot of people that will have turnover.

  2. Stuart Willson

    what’s interesting about the storefront concept, in addition to being unique, is that in not having to worry about the logistics associated with shipping and spoilage/inventory management on a large scale, it is really only as complicated a model as a restaurant, which while not an easy business, is a known business. if the food is interesting and differentiated and also easy to cook at home, i can see this business working on a small scale.

    1. Gotham Gal


  3. LE

    I personally did not invest in any of them. I just could not wrap up my arms around the ability for these businesses to truly scale. One way this would work would be if there was involvement bya) celebrity chefsb) famous or well known people who put together recipes for vanity sake and will show up to promote themselves for another reason.c) people promoting their own cookbooks.The publicity from the above takes care of at least some of the customer acquisition issues.Once you start to really get into cooking will people really want to be use their recipes each week or come up with their own?”So the question is how much repeat business can you get from someone. Well at the very least think about special occasions and holidays. Say someone wants to make a special birthday dinner and then you get them to also make a valentines day dinner etc. So I think while a customer might not do 1 time per week they could easily do several times per year. Won’t large grocery stores start doing this themselves like stores added websites and provided ecommerce from their inventories as an added revenue driver?Supermarkets already have done quite well with prepared foods sections (as anyone who has spent time at wholefoods overbuying things knows).I see this as a different thing. Because you go in and spend less because you only get exactly what you need for that one meal. You aren’t all distracted by also picking up things you don’t need. This is a different experience.I think from a business angle you have to also look at the differences between NYC where people have small kitchens and are more likely to go out to eat and the suburbs (a place you probably haven’t spent much time lately?) as far as whether this idea would work.

  4. LE

    One more thing:Won’t large grocery stores start doing this themselves like stores added websites and provided ecommerce from their inventories as an added revenue driver?That’s not bad, that’s good.Because it allow you to potentially make deals to operate the concept at an existing supermarket (similar to cosmetics counters in department stores) but more importantly that legitimizes the idea and makes people think of the concept as an alternative. Then you just have to get those people to shop the experience which is better at the smaller venue.One thing about food as you know it’s not all about the price it’s about the experience. If it were just food most restaurants wouldn’t get very far. So the margins that supermarkets have doesn’t mean you can’t charge more and add value. (I mean possibly it would have to be tweaked ever so carefully).

  5. Alice Graces

    I see in the photo that you take your pictures with an actual camera. I always assumed you took them on your phone! Is that sometimes the case?

  6. aysha ali

    I love this concept, it’s the ready measured cake mix idea but for real meals. The only thing is, cake mix has a long shelf life- you add the egg whenever you’re ready… Shifting bundles of perishables is probably a bit more difficult. Check out they’re approach is interesting, working with recipe sites and supermarkets. Another is (this one involves: chefs, weekly boxes and local producers).

    1. Gotham Gal

      i love you analogy.

      1. aysha ali

        Thanks Joanne. A strength of these model is the super efficiency for the store. Owners choose some recipes, buy only relevant stock and then get rid of it in bundles- really clever. It’s like traditional bridge selling applied to food. Customer buys pasta, why not bundle canned tomatoes, some pecorino and a little basil (maybe a recipe card for the uncreative). It could really work if kits were competitively prized.

  7. andyidsinga

    I’ve seen similar businesses in portland too. We’ve used some, and exactly as you said – you get bored ( seems more that boredom than consistency).On the upside – the name they chose – The Walk-In Cookbook – is really cool .A bunch of thoughts popped into my head about the experience someone could have while at The Walk-In Cookbook. Is there a kitchen in there? are they learning? are we drinking beer and wine while cooking and socializing? Do chefs from local restaurants come in .. events?

    1. Gotham Gal

      There might have been but didn’t pay attention.The name is great

  8. ShanaC

    The pricing on quinciple gave me sticker shock, especially since the product is radically similar to what a csa is, minus the home delivery.Without the protein in it, without fruit, my csa’s maximum price for a half share is $15.48/week for the course of a 21 weeks. There is also a winter share which also doesn’t go above $15/week for those weeks.I can get a local sourdough (though on my to do to make my own) for under 2 at the bake shop across the street. I’ve gotten great cheeses for far less as well.Plus, from experience of the CSA, it can get both hard and boring (I had weeks of summer squash because that was what was growing). Food is something that should inspire, and sometimes with subscriptions it is more about being committed than inspired, which is why you need other reasons to continue on that path.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I completely agree. The pricing is really high.