Did you know that 50 years ago there were no Thai or Japanese restaurants in the United States?
When I first heard that factoid I didn’t believe it. From my apartment on the Upper East Side, I have delivery options from 6 Thai restaurants and 18 sushi restaurants, each within a short walk. But that is just the start. Menupages.com divides its selection criteria into 103 different cuisines. Chinese food can be ordered at the province-level (Szechuan, Cantonese, etc). And this is not just a NY phenomenon – all over the country consumer’s palates are becoming more diverse.
At the same time, food helps us connect with the past. Grandpa Milton (my wife’s grandfather) owned a Jewish deli on the Lower East Side. His cooking is legendary. Many people have a similar story – whether it is an Italian Nonna or Polish Babka – about a grandparent’s cooking. They may even have recipes that go back to when their families first came to America.
Unfortunately, the ritual of weeknight cooking has taken a 30 year hiatus. By the 1980s, drive-through windows and take-out entered the main stream. And, for the first time, more households than not had two working parents. I was lucky to have family dinners growing up, but it was a different experience from my parents’ generation. We had home-cooked meals that my mom prepared after work, but we also had Boston Market chicken, House of Hunan, Rudolph’s ribs, Leonardo’s pizza, and a fried chicken place called Jimbos that was later converted into a gas station. Of the home-cooked recipes, a few were really excellent. And then there was “chicken-in-a-pink-sauce”.
It is no surprise that we are struggling to cook in the 21st century. It is a complex issue because we want healthy food. We want food that is easy to prepare. We want food that fits our personal taste profile. We want food that is priced reasonably. And we want food that can be found in any US grocery store.
A few months ago I met with the team at Plated. They came up with a brilliant idea – it starts with a service that essentially replaces grocery shopping. Plated delivers DIY meals, with each ingredient and spice portioned to prepare at home. Every week they have 7 new recipes to choose from, plus accompanying videos on YouTube in case you need help. I have been using the service for the past few months and have taught myself how to cook over a dozen new dishes. In the process we have also saved time and money, and I find that I am eating a lot healthier than take-out alternatives.
What these guys have done in a short period of time is almost miraculous. They already deliver in 40 states. They built a fulfillment center in the South Bronx, which is the poorest Congressional District in the country, and employ over 150 people with benefits. And they have been on Shark Tank, twice.
Last week we closed our Series A investment in Plated. It is the largest initial investment we have made at Greycroft, and I am very proud of my association with the company. The food sector is the largest market we have tackled at Greycroft, and I think Plated has the potential to be a colossal business.