New York has no shortage of startups using technology to disrupt the food industry. If you can dream it up, chances are someone else has already brought it to life. And why not? New Yorkers like to eat, and the food industry is rife with opportunities for improvement. After all, total retail and food service sales in the United States alone add up to a massive $5.32 trillion a year, so certainly there’s enough pie to go around.
Bad puns aside, we checked in to see what's going on at the crossroads of two of our favorite things: food and tech.
Local Bushel is bringing the farmers market online and fresh produce to your door. Sure, the farmers' market is quaint and we all enjoy going once in awhile, but the reality is that we're busy people and farmers markets in New York are overrun. So, rather than hauling your greens home from Union Square, Local Bushel lets you order them online. With the push of a couple of buttons, you'll have farm-fresh ingredients rushed to your door.
Most New Yorkers don’t have the time, knowledge, space or patience to make a home cooked meal. But, that's not to say we're monsters who don't enjoy one from time to time. Umi Kitchen is kind of like Uber, but for home cooked meals. Their platform connects local cooks with people in need of a real meal. You get online and see what people in your community are cooking, select what you want, and it'll be delivered with heating instructions and an ingredients list.
Yes, we know what you're thinking. The answer is that every cook listed on Umi is food safety trained and food handler certified, just like chefs in restaurants. And as for your other question, all the meals and chefs are reviewed by other customers, so you'll know who to order from.
Cookunity is kind of like Umi Kitchen, in that it connects hungry consumers with home cooks — but with a twist. Instead of just connecting you with anyone, Cookunity connects you with a freelance chef working out of a private kitchen. Think of it like moonlighting for chefs, or like a way you can finally afford a personal chef (they just won't actually be personal). Users look through the site to see what the chefs are cooking, order and your chef-prepared meal will arrive soon after. Like Umi Kitchen, your meal shows up with heating instructions and you’re able to eat like a king on your couch.
Olo provides the power behind the digital ordering business of big chain restaurants. You didn't think that restaurants are building out online point of sale (POS) systems from scratch, did you? Olo works with large chains — think Chipotle and Five Guys — and builds out their online ordering and pickup business. The software integrates with the restaurant's existing, in-person POS system and allows customers to check out and order online without creating headaches for the restaurant. So far, the company works with over 150 restaurant groups.
Food52 is an online community for foodies and cooks. You can think of them kind of like a one-stop shop for food related media. The site hosts everything from contests to recipes, along with a healthy dash of food-related editorial content. If you want to read about how the ‘Cure for Condensations Involves Paper’ or are curious ‘What Makes a Good Shower Beer, Anyway,’ look no further. Food52 also operates a popular food forum and shop that sells a curated array of items to pimp your kitchen.
Gebni is bringing the world of real-time, dynamic pricing to the world of delivery food. Why should you pay full price to buy an unpopular menu item at an off-peak time? Gebni's software lets restaurants price their menu items in real time according to the laws of supply and demand. If Adam Smith is right, that should be a good thing for all.
It wasn't too long ago that going out to eat at just about anywhere but a fancy restaurant or a chain meant paying in cash or meeting an absurd credit card minimum. ShopKeep makes the iPad point of sale system you see used in small businesses around the city. While their software obviously has uses outside the world of eating, it has also allowed small, independent restaurants to use tools that were previously out of reach.
Images via companies featured.