New York is perhaps the best city in the world for food delivery. Delivery app mainstays like Seamless and Grubhub have wide-ranging offerings in all five boroughs. Specialty delivery services like Postmates can bring lunch in from almost any restaurant in the city. And then there was Maple—the upscale startup that aimed to revolutionize the food delivery space by making delivery of the highest quality food its first and only goal. But today there is one less app on New York City’s iPhone screen, because Maple announced that it is shuttering its New York delivery operations.
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For those who do not live in New York and were unable to acquaint themselves with Maple, the company began delivery in 2015 with the backing of some culinary giants like David Chang, who was not only an early investor in the company, but also its first chief culinary officer. The man behind Momofuku predicted big things for Maple when told Food & Wine shortly after the first Maple deliveries started hitting doorsteps, “In 10 years Food & Wine will have a Best New Chef from the food delivery service.” But unfortunately, Maple was never able to really find its footing. Despite opening five Manhattan neighborhood kitchens and a commissary in Brooklyn, it never expanded its delivery area beyond the lower third of Manhattan. Also, in leaked documents obtained by tech site recode last year and cited by Quartz earlier today, Maple was found to have food and labor costs that both topped 60 percent of its revenue—approximately double what restaurants aim for. Additionally, as Quartz pointed out, Maple hired its delivery people as full time employees and even provided their healthcare—two practically unheard of occurrences in the food delivery world. Some more recent moves by Maple seemed to recognize that tough reality, like the addition of a delivery fee. When it opened both delivery fees and tip were included in the cost of a meal. None of those struggles do anything to take away from the actual food though. Upon eating a Maple delivered meal, Former Food & Wine editor in chief Dana Cowin said, “This is food you wish you had time to cook.”
But in a statement sent out to Maple users CEO Caleb Merkl admitted that the company was just not in a sustainable place.
While an incredibly difficult decision for Akshay [co-founder] and me given the effect on our core operations, it became clear that we needed to close the Maple operation here in New York and look for a partner with scale—one that would allow us to leverage all that we had built across a broader platform.
Merkl went on to say that Maple had connected with UK-based food delivery service Deliveroo to. In a statement to Food & Wine a representative for Maple said that in practice, what this will mean is that Deliveroo will acquire (and presumably) adopt Maple’s technology and that several of the company’s top brass—including Merkl—will join Deliveroo’s operations in London.
Ultimately, Maple may have been an idea before its time. We’ll have to see if other upscale delivery efforts, like David Chang’s Ando, can crack the delivery mold. But for now New Yorkers will just have to return to their Seamless and their Grubhub.