After I left Google, life had a big void. Croissant and Quiche shaped void. There were no more 5-course meals, chef prepared omlets and pastas, Friday socials, and the world’s most exotic salads, all for free.
Office life was bleak, hunger pangs many, and food options too few. The thought of stepping out in the sun and braving autos to go to a restaurant everyday depressed me.
But then, life changed.
I started noticing the buzz around “food tech startups” that were mushrooming all over the city, much like startups for pretty much everything! These were startups that would deliver home-made food to your doorstep.
So, instead of going through reams of menus on Zomato or individually figuring out what restaurants delivered, and then once the food arrived struggling to find the dishes to eat in and wash them later, I started ordering from these food places that would deliver home-cooked, in a ready-to-serve-and-eat package, at very reasonable rates, straight to my office. Luckily, I am based in an area most of these startups delivered to. So, I could experiment and order something new everyday, sitting at my laptop. That I looked like I was dedicatedly crunching numbers on Excel while I was only virtually drooling over delicious photos on all those websites was a different story.
And so, it began. Armed with a laptop and a phone, I decided to take matters of stomach in my hand. Each working day was a new tiffin, a new taste. The food was usually delivered by the many logistics startups like RoadRunnr, Opinio (The backbone of ecommerce) and sometimes by the delivery team of the kitchens themselves. I have ordered from 18 different food startups in the last 20 working days or so and here’s a brief snippet on all.
It was the first food startup that I discovered and ordered from. The Freshmenu website with its attractive photos won me over. At 200 for a pasta, the price point doesn’t make it a great option for every day, but the days I felt like splurging a bit on gourmet food ( Thai curries, Quesadillas) Freshmenu it was. They’re big on social media, and have interesting offers once in awhile but fewer coupons than I’d like. If I could afford them everyday, they would be my favourite continental kitchen.
Now Swiggy is less a food tech startup, and more food-delivery logistics, but what the hell. This was when I was unaware of the world of home-cooked, chef-prepared meals. Swiggy lists out all the restaurants in an area, from where you can order, goes to those restaurants and gets your food to you. At no extra charge. A blessing for times when you are craving for food from a restaurant that didn’t have delivery. They also have their own packaging.
Faasos is an example of an offline chain, gone online. I’d heard of their rolls so decided to try them out. The rolls per se are decent, but that ‘secret sauce’ in them is delish. Quick delivery, and finger-food options make them a very viable office-food option. Their all day Aloo Parantha & Poha combo was a bit of a letdown, however, Faasos is one of the food tech guys who seem to be doing it right, with their own kitchens, options for pick up and eat in-house and a dedicated logistics team.
While Spoonjoy may have shut down now, it served me well for the duration it lasted. With decent prices for an average meal it was a good option. RIP Rajma-Chawal that Spoonjoy decided to pass off as “Mexican feast”.
I chanced upon this site based on suggestions from a community of foodies from Bangalore. The taste was homely, the quantity, decent and at a very reasonable 100 it served me well. They’ve changed their model now and do subscriptions only, and once in effect would be a boon for office-goers like me who hate the thought of having to spend time and effort on ordering everyday.
These guys have an interesting mix of Indian salads, chaats, interspersed with mexican salads and burgers. Sticking to home turf, I ordered a Chola-Kulcha combo, which was delivered in 30 minutes.
The packing – what they call MealBags – is innovative, the taste is good to average and the prices are decent. And I must add, the name “Bhukkad”, hits quite close to home! A good option for all those times when other options display a big “SOLD OUT” sign, as Bhukkad does snacks all day long. They also deliver in ecofriendly packaging with organic plates and brown bags, so big ups for that.
Cookaroo is fast emerging as my favourite, go-to food option at work. I have ordered over 15+ meals from here and have hardly ever been disappointed. The fare is mostly north Indian, home cooked style meals. My first order was personally delivered by the founders, who call regularly to take feedback. Also, they sent me a nice gift on Diwali, making me a little biased towards them!
This one focusses on nutrition-driven, healthy foods. Plus, it kind of offsets my guilt about having too much coffee and sugar. My order was a Spinach parantha, curds, salad and papaya juice, and if health food looks like this, I’m willing to convert. They also do customised-plans on subscription basis.
This seems to be the new kid on the block. I got to know of EatFresh from the pamphlets they’d left in my office. The site seems to be modelled on Freshmenu. Gourmet and exotic Chef prepared meals and delicacies like Ratatouille and Cacciotore are to be had. Brownie points for offering a generous discount code for the first order, delivering my order in <30 minutes despite the crazy rains and traffic jams in the area, on the day.
A funny spin on the Hindi term “Khaalo”. Ordered a rice stragonoff which came in a box split in a sandwich style, but both sides of which was the rice! The taste was decent, and I was happy to see a few exotic veggies like Broccoli and Zucchini in the thing. Ordered a beans salad the next time which had some exotic unheard of veggies thrown in.
Update: As of Dec. 20th, Eatlo has ceased operations.
Brekkie as the name suggests only does breakfasts, and I’ve only needed to use them once on an early day to work and boy do they do breakfast well! I ordered aloo paranthas (Clearly, I like my Aloo Paranthas), and got served in 30 mins. The food is packaged in crisp brown and eco-friendly paper bags, so yay for saving the environment. Apart from deliveries, there’s also an option to pick up the breakfast from their food trucks in Indiranagar.
Alas, Dazo too have shut down by now, but they were one of the earlier food delivery startups. Their price points weren’t the greatest, but the food was good. They had some loyal customers in my office, who have since then moved on.
I ordered a meal from Hungerbox which probably was the last remaining meal they had for the day as it was not warm at all, which was a bummer. Though the fries were good! (when are they not?). Overall, they have been the most non-descript food service I’ve tried so far. Need to give them another chance, I guess.
I got to know about this one from the show TVF Pitchers, as the Naveen Bansal and team are offered a meal at “Rs. 25 only”. A great publicity stunt, I must say. The food, however, isn’t all that great, but then again it’s my subjective opinion. They are mainly known for their heavily North Indian combo meals. ( Read Chole, Paneer and Chicken!) with salads. Though being veg, I stuck to a “Farmer’s Market salad”.
They are touted to be India’s first online coffee brand and no doubt, the idea of having your coffee delivered to the doorstep sounded unique, and I bit! I expected a fancy contraption to keep the contents hot, but lo, the coffee came in a thermos, which the delivery guy poured into a DropKaffe branded mug on the spot. Maybe I’m not the biggest fan of filter coffee, but the brownie was sinful, though. Would recommend them to the people who absolutely have a lack of coffee and desserts missing in their offices (and lives!)
17. Chai Point
Being a chai addict, it’d be a travesty to leave out a food startup that specialises in the good old cuppa! If not at events and hoardings around the city, you’d have seen their tiny kiosks all over the city where there’s a “chai-in” option. They’re best known for delivering tea in their innovative “Chai Flasks”. I hear they’ve also started doing breakfast subscriptions.
Of course, I wasn’t going to finish this post without including the big daddy of all food startups – FoodPanda. While Foodpanda is merely a restaurant aggregator and not the best office-lunch option for me, it’s my go-to website and app for anytime food, especially with its hard to resist regular 30-50% discounts. Though, there have been reports of a shakeup in the startup, and reports of a few bad experiences, my own has been nothing but good, with 9/10 times food having been delivered on time.
If I were to, as a power user, give a few suggestions to these startups, they’d be:
– Think of a price point that would make for a great everyday option, and not just once in a while indulgence.
– To scale up and bring down costs of logistics, try to promote within specific area clusters AND offices. 2 deliveries from one office > 3 deliveries in two far off places.
-On the product side, would love to see a more balanced selection of both veg and non veg options.
– Packaging: Try and reduce plastic as much as possible, because all that food means all that plastic. A turn-off for the ecofriendly conscious population.
– Subscriptions would be a boon! Nobody wants to waste 30 minutes trying to figure what to eat and order, every single day. Just take care of my food on a weekly/monthly basis.
Clearly the consumer is spoilt for choice, while on the business end of things, some of these startups may eventually shut down, lay off employees in droves while some get millions in funding and go big, to me these food tech startups are solving a real problem. The challenge for each of them would be how to establish a loyal repeat customer base and bringing down operational costs to still be profitable. While I go to office without the possibility starvation, or gulping down an Idli-Sambar from a Sukh Sagar reluctantly, here’s to the love of food, back in my office life, Google or not.