In tandem with the launch of the Food+Tech Job Board, we are thrilled to launch the Food Startup Growth Series. This series will give you an inside look at the strategies, challenges and best practices of fast-growing food startups.
The $11 billion U.S. food delivery market is crowded and fast-growing. Mealmade, a San Francisco-based meal delivery startup, is differentiating itself by offering healthy meals for people with specialized diets, like gluten-free, paleo, autoimmune protocol and vegan. Delivery is available for lunch and dinner, featuring entrees like Chicken Tikka Masala and Carnitas Tacos. All of its meals are cooked to order in the company’s kitchen using 100 percent gluten, soy and dairy-free ingredients. Furthermore, its proteins are all grass-fed, free-range or sustainably-caught.
Since launching in October 2015, Mealmade seen 15 to 20 percent growth month-over-month. Now it’s in the process of launching an app, expanding delivery service to the weekends and opening a brick-and-mortar retail space for pick-up and counter service.
I spoke with founder Jeff Nobbs to learn more about why Mealmade is launching a brick-and-mortar space, how he’s able to offer meals at an affordable price-point and what kinds of employees make a great fit.
Mealmade is hiring a full-stack marketer here and spread the word!
Jeff Nobbs: Mealmade is moving into a new restaurant space in March, with a brick and mortar “traditional” retail presence. Customers can order delivery through our website (or soon-to-launch app) or walk-in and pickup their order, or even order at the front counter and dine in! Between the new space and developing our mobile app, we’ve been busy!
JN: We’ve grown 15-20 percent per month since launching and plan to continue that growth. Almost all of our growth to date as been through word of mouth. With the addition to scalable online advertising, a mobile app, weekend deliveries (we currently only open on weekdays), and a brick-and-mortar presence, we plan to accelerate our growth.
JN: Nothing about our mission revolves around delivery, but it’s our current strategy. Our mission is about getting healthier better food into the hands of more people so delivery was a really easy to way to start. Brick and mortar is the next step along with catering and we’re getting ready to launch both. We’ve had a lot of customers let us know that they don’t order lunch from us because their office provides catering, and we want to be there for them.
JN: We think company culture is the result of the people we hire. We look for ambitious, intelligent people who are passionate about healthy eating and living, and embrace technology. As a result of building around these premises, our culture is one that values open communication, transparency, respect and hard work.
JN: By defining our values, and constantly repeating them:
JN: Operations are everything in this business. We should have started documenting everything we do as a company, earlier. Our processes drive our business. When one process doesn’t happen or happens incorrectly, it leads to a domino effect of other things going wrong. Having so many moving parts is challenging, but also allows us to do a lot with a little when processes are well defined.
JN: If our food were served in a dine-in restaurant it would be 2 to 3 times the price. We work really hard with distributors and we didn’t need to pay for an expensive retail location to begin with. We also don’t have a full-time wait staff that we are paying salaries for so we’re able to decrease the price for customers. But the main difference is our average order value. From the beginning, we charged $5 for delivery and that, coupled with the quality of our food, incentivizes people to order more. Our average order is almost $40. Our food costs are a little higher but we make up for that with almost everything else.
JN: It will invariably start with “I wear a lot of hats…”
JN: We detail out every process that drives our company. These processes are documented and act as the foundation for learning the ins and outs of working at Mealmade. Besides these processes, a week of training and the new employee is ready to start contributing!
JN: What’s your most controversial belief?
JN: We are looking for a full-stack marketer to lead all aspects of marketing and accelerate our growth.
JN: Every day we rotate in between 2-5 new items and rotate out old items so over the course of a week and a half our menu completely changes. Our chef and I look at what’s in season and we listen to what customers say they like. We are doing paleo in a way that’s not boring. It’s never going to be just chicken breast and steamed vegetables. We’ll do a bunch of R&D around things that sound good to us, like French toast. It keeps things really interesting and fun.
JN: You are what you eat. We’re defining what people are and how they feel. We’re in the midst of a food revolution and we want to play a role in how the future of food is defined.
JN: Everyone on our team is obsessed with healthy food and really cares deeply about sustainability. The fact that we all care so much about the mission of the company is what has allowed us to grow very quickly. We are our customers so we can think about what we want to provide as a company and that’s generally what our customers want too.