Full Stack Food

Earlier this week FastCompany wrote about Maple, a local food-delivery service here in NYC. The article quickly made its way around our office, where Maple has become the de-facto delivery option for lunch and dinner.

Unlike its closest competitors (Seamless and GrubHub,) Maple manages its own kitchen. This puts Maple in a class of full stack startups that create value through supply chain aggregation within a specific industry.

Here’s Sarah Kessler with Fast Company:

Maple, a David Chang-backed restaurant in New York City, doesn’t have any tables, cash registers, or waiters. Instead, its customers order meals through its website or mobile app, and a fleet of bike couriers deliver them. By eliminating the dining room and bringing meals to you, Maple is betting that it can sell more meals per hour, using less real estate, than a traditional restaurant.

The article outlines Maple’s business strategy -- full stack food delivery, and only food delivery --  and explains how the company approaches its logistics challenges. It’s a great summary, but the heavy focus on logistics directs attention away from another key element of the Maple value prop: lower prices to the consumer.

Since Maple is delivery-only, they avoid the occupancy costs associated with a normal restaurant -- rent, wait staff salary, and insurance, to name a few. No occupancy costs means that when compared to dine-in restaurants with equally priced ingredients, Maple will always win on price, thanks to their cost structure advantage.

Maple’s cost structure comes into play with their delivery app competitors, too. When you order food through Seamless or Grubhub, your food comes from restaurants that have to maintain occupancy costs. That means higher prices.

Right now, I can order dinner from Maple for $15. A Seamless meal of the same price amounts to $18. That’s ~20% more, part of which goes to occupancy costs, part of which goes to the service fees Seamless charges the restaurant. By eliminating third parties in their consumer value chain, Maple eliminates these costs and gives consumers a better price.

This value chain control gives Maple another upper hand: data. Kessler makes this point in her FastCompany article -- Maple is the only delivery app with full visibility into their kitchen operations. They know the order demand they should expect across a given menu, the exact time it takes to prepare each dish, and the time at which an order will be ready for delivery. As they feed learnings from this data back into their business, Maple will only continue to improve their supply costs and their logistics efficiency.

Full stack startups (e.g. Uber, AirBnB, Netflix) have already taken over their respective industries through value chain logistics and analytics, and cost structure control. It was only a matter of time until someone applied the model to food delivery. That’s Maple.