Picture the scene. After a long day you finally get a chance to sit down. In front of you is your favourite dish from the local trattoria, spaghetti carbonara. Oozing with glorious eggy richness, and speckled with crispy pancetta, a generous coating of freshly grated Pecorino has melted into the silky strands; just how you like it. With a glass of red, and great company, the stresses of the day seem far away.
However, you are not seated in that Italian restaurant just around the corner, instead you are slumped on the couch, your dish of choice is served in a brown box, and the great company is the cast of House of Cards. To many the restaurant experience, the ambience, the smells, the service, is an essential part of enjoying great food.
Though, when you come in the door at 7pm after a long day at work convenience, cost, and, let’s face it, cravings often take priority. Our appetite for takeaway food is booming, and alongside the pizza or sub-standard Chinese meal that you might expect is a new breed of takeaway, selling quality food made from scratch and made to order.
More and more home delivery services are offering to bring signature dishes from top restaurants straight to your door, all for little more than the dine-in cost. This might be the future of how we eat, and in fast paced cities such as New York, they think nothing of ordering takeout every night, with high quality restaurant food widely available. In Ireland however takeaway is still almost exclusively associated with a low grade curry or kebab. It was this contrast in service on opposite sides of the Atlantic that inspired the leading delivery service in the market, Deliveroo.
Founder William Shu, had recently moved to London from New York. Working in finance, which involved long hours most days of the week, he quickly found that London lacked a thriving, quality, food delivery ecosystem. In 2013, to spare himself, and others, a diet of Burger King, William launched Deliveroo with a mission to connect local, high quality restaurants that don’t usually deliver, to discerning customers.
They signed up restaurants such as Michelin starred Indian restaurant Trishna, and Ollie Dabbous’ Barnyard that typically don’t offer delivery, as well as quality chains such as Dishoom and Wagamama. In a market crowded with takeaway restaurants and delivery apps, Deliveroo offered something different; a promise that you won’t find low-quality takeaway restaurants on their books.
Deliveroo landed in Dublin in April 2015, and since then their turquoise and black clad delivery ‘riders’ have become a part of the city’s landscape; darting through the traffic like a swarm of Duracell bunnies. Quality versions of the takeaway classics like pizza and fish and chips are available on Deliveroo, but a quick search on their app also shows up restaurants such as The Farm, Fiorentina Italian, Chameleon and The Woollen Mills. Only delivering food within a 2km radius of each restaurant, to ensure it arrives hot and fresh, the average delivery time is just 32 minutes.
This freshness first policy can be a double edged sword for those living in restaurant ‘deserts’; where nearby restaurant options are limited, or even nonexistent. To solve this, starting in London, this month Deliveroo launched RooBox; a new initiative that sees Deliveroo provide off-site kitchen space for its restaurant partners, in an effort to serve even more customers.
After securing $200 million in its third round of funding, Deliveroo is spreading rapidly; it is available in 61 cities, across 12 countries, and has already expanded it’s services throughout Dublin, and to Cork, Galway and Belfast. In just over 12 months in Ireland, Deliveroo has partnered with over 200 restaurants, recruited over 400 riders, and boasts a 25% month on month growth.
Owner of Counter Culture, in Powerscourt Towncentre, Ronan Ryan says that the uptake of Deliveroo has been “a real bonus” to his business. “It’s generally business from people who could never get to us for lunch,” he says. “I think Deliveroo has given people the chance to get brunch and lunch delivered from top places like Dillinger’s, Osteria Lucio or Paulie’s. The sooner they deliver to the whole city the better.”
Dublin restaurateur John Farrell already uses Deliveroo as an outlet for two of his eateries; The Butcher Grill, and gourmet takeaway Super Miss Sue Cervi. Though he has another venture in mind, Blackbird, that will not just take fast food to the next level, but to 130 locations worldwide. With a similar concept to Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s global fast casual restaurant chain serving high quality versions of fast food classics, John says Blackbird will be like “a grown up McDonald’s serving quality chicken”. His attitude is if Danny Meyer can make $600 million from fast food then why can’t he?
Another dynamic restaurateur, chef David Chang is already an investor in Maple, a NYC meal-delivery service that combines ‘culinary masterminds’ with ‘incredible ingredients’, and recently revealed that he is working on delivery-only, app-friendly Momofuko spinoff called Ando. Snapping up chef J.J. Basil, formerly of cutting edge restaurant wd~50 on the Lower East Side, Ando will deliver dishes like authentic cheese steaks oozing with housemade cheese, tofu bowls, and a secret KFC-style fried chicken bucket that is ‘unlocked’ using the app.
Delivery Only, another New York ‘ghost restaurant’, the term for these no bricks and mortar eateries, aims to “master the art of the dining-in experience”, according to its release. Restaurateur and Owner Tim Powell has hired chef Joseph Nierstedt, who honed his skills at top restaurants such as Per Se, to cook menu items as they are ordered, with everything from the breads to the sauces made from scratch.
Elsewhere in Dublin, restaurants are catering to consumer demand for quality convenient food, that doesn’t come with a side order of guilt. One of Dublin’s premier Thai restaurants Saba opened Saba To Go in Rathmines in 2014, and has since opened in Windy Arbour too. With fresh herbs and vegetables flown direct from Bangkok once a week, Saba To Go delivers the same fresh, authentic dishes developed by chef Tao that Saba has built a reputation for over its ten year history. The menus, developed with nutritionist Erika Doolan, even include paleo friendly dishes.
“I think that the customers first thought upon hearing the word ‘takeaway’ is still primarily that of the chipper or the greasy spoon,” says David Greene of Camille Thai, who market themselves as a ‘healthy home delivery’ rather than a takeaway. “For us the difference is that our food is made to order in the same type of kitchen used in a high quality restaurant. People now expect to be able to eat healthily wherever they choose to dine.”
Eager to take a bite of the home delivery market is Irish start up Flipdish. Similarly, Flipdish is a mobile ordering platform, but it provides restaurants with their own branded apps, rather than sending their customers off to a third party app where their competitors are listed. Flipdish also boasts less fees for restaurants; 7% compared to Just Eat’s 13%, and as high as 30% from Deliveroo.
In the US, the big players have also moved into food delivery. Uber, the on-demand taxi service, now runs UberEATS, and Amazon, the undisputed leader of online retail, has expanded their same day delivery app Amazon Prime to include food delivery from local restaurants; now available in 20 U.S cities and London.
Other companies not only deliver the food but cook it too. Operating in four US cities, Munchery‘s team of chefs from top restaurants prepare all of their dishes to arrive chilled; so that they stay fresh and give the customer the control to heat up or cook according to their own schedules. Another service, Sprig has a daily rotating menu that prioritises local, organic and sustainable ingredients; from which their chefs create delicious, ‘clean’ food for delivery in parts of the US, Canada and Spain.
In London, Supper delivers Michelin star food straight to doorsteps of discerning Londoners, and guarantees a meal of exactly the same quality as if served in one of its exclusive restaurants; including Tamarind, London’s first Indian restaurant ever to receive a Michelin star, and Benares by three Michelin star chef Daniel Boulud. Supper also boasts revolutionary bikes from Japan, built with the latest technology and featuring bespoke, thermal-lined boxes that keep the food at a constant temperature, and prevent it from degrading or being knocked during delivery.
The phenomenon has even caught on in Paris, a city deeply entrenched in culinary traditions, where diners are embracing food delivery services like Foodora, Deliveroo, Take Eat Easy, and UberEats, offering food from classic bistros and non-traditional restaurants alike. A sign that eating habits are changing in France, a country that has traditionally rejected food delivery.
Data from Euromonitor shows that Irish people have a serious takeaway habit; spending on average €322 per head on fast food in 2012, more than 19 other European countries. It would be too dramatic to suggest that this uptake of home delivery sounds the death knell for traditional high end restaurants, but the food service landscape is changing. Consumer demand for takeaway food is growing alongside the prevailing trend of casual dining; a move away from starched linen tablecloths, towards a more informal style of service.
Ronan Ryan says restaurants shouldn’t view this as a threat, but instead as an opportunity to grow their markets, “how could extra income be a threat? It pays our rent; I love it.”
With high rents, the expense of opening, small margins, and a limited amount of covers, home delivery gives restaurants the chance to get their food out to more people. It seems rise of gourmet takeaway can benefit both the busy consumer and the space strapped restaurateur; and neither has to do the washing up.
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after a brief dalliance with law, she completed a Masters degree in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.