Can delivery replace the microwave meal?
“I’m fairly convinced that 20 years from now, we will mostly not make our own food,” says the CEO of tech investor Naspers in an FT article [paywalled
] about the rise of food delivery startups, and how they’re evolving.
The big thing now is ‘dark kitchens’ — kitchens set up purely to serve delivery orders. They might be in warehouses, or disused restaurants, or even in car parks that get turned into food delivery hubs after hours. But whatever form they take, they’re a sign that investors believe there’s much more growth to come from the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
And then there’s Taster
, a company offering 'delivery-only’ food brands for distribution through food delivery companies. Its founder tells the FT: “The market is mature enough to build a delivery-only brand… My ambition is to create the Five Guys of Vietnamese food or the Shake Shack of Korean fried chicken . . . These [delivery] platforms need guys like us because they can’t rely on burgers and sushi at some point, they need a bit more diversity in food.”
It’s fair to say that I’d probably order more food for delivery if there was more variety; in most places burgers and pizzas are all you’ll get, and you can only eat so many of those. But the idea of most of our meals being delivered hot, having been prepared in some nearby warehouse by low-paid kitchen staff, is depressing. There’s value in the ritual of preparing food for ourselves or our families and friends, and sitting down to eat it when it’s ready.
Where there might be real growth potential for food delivery is in taking share away from microwave ready-meals. Why heat up a meal prepared a few days ago in a factory yourself, when someone else can heat up a meal prepared especially for you 20 minutes ago? The premium microwave ready-meal market (think Tesco Finest and its ilk) should definitely be on guard.
But I don’t think fully-equipped kitchens will be a thing of the past in the homes of 2039, no matter how much food delivery investors might want that to be true.