The process of delivering food isn’t rocket science, nor is it novel. Someone orders a meal, and another person delivers it.
But for whatever reason, there seems to be a food delivery bubble expanding nationwide — and particularly in Seattle.
If you’re craving food but don’t want to leave your house or office, these are just a few of the food delivery options available in town right now.
We’ve spent the past few months testing several services and tried a little bit of everything: Three new startups that just launched in Seattle this month; two companies that have been around for a year; Postmates, likely the most well known of the bunch; and one restaurant that’s delivered food for the past few years.
It was a fun — and tasty — experience. The online ordering process varied from service to service, but all were fairly easy to use. Most of the food we ordered was satisfying — from Greek to BBQ to crab cakes — and there were no “bad” meals.
When it came time to assess the companies, it was difficult to hand out grades using the same standards for each. This was particularly true because our experience was typically based on food quality — something that some delivery services have no control of.
But at the end of the day, all seven companies shared one aspect in common: Delivering food. So, when it came down to the reviews, we split grades into two categories: Delivery Process, which included everything from ease of online ordering to customer service, and Food, which is self-explanatory.
Here’s how each fared on a scale from 1-to-10, with 10 being the best:
- Munchery: 9.3 (4.8 on food; 4.5 on delivery)
- Caviar: 9.1 (4.3 on food; 4.8 on delivery)
- Postmates: 8.8 (4.7 on food; 4.1 on delivery)
- Lish: 8.7 (4.4 on food; 4.3 on delivery)
- Bitesquad: 8 (3.3 on food; 4.7 on delivery)
- Blueacre: 7.8 (4 on food; 3.8 on delivery)
- Peachd: 7.6 (2.8 on food; 4.8 on delivery)
Read on for more detailed analysis of each delivery service. Fair warning: you will likely become quite hungry after reading through this post.
Caviar was our inaugural delivery service test. The Bay Area-based company has raised $15 million and Square is reportedly interested in purchasing the startup for $100 million.
Caviar’s site is easy to navigate and offered up a nice variety of some well-known eateries in Seattle — about 35 in total.
We had one problem, though: our team meeting was at noon. Caviar could not deliver our Mr. Gyro’s food until 12:30 p.m.
I emailed customer service and called the help line early that morning asking if we could have the food delivered at 11:45 or closer to noon.
An email response came within two minutes: “Yes, we can have your food as close to 12 as possible. Mr Gyro’s doesn’t open until 11:30 but we’ll be there right at that time and get to you as quickly as possible.”
A little later, I got a call from customer service — they reiterated that they’d try to get my order in ASAP. I was impressed with the customer service thus far.
We were able to track our order on Caviar’s website. There is a cool feature where you can monitor your driver in real-time — this reminded us of apps like Uber and Lyft. Although the tracking was a little clunky, and at one point it seemed as though the delivery had completely missed our office.
But at 11:57 a.m., Ian showed up at our second-floor office door. He was in street clothes and had our orders in plastic bags.
The food itself was solid — the lamb was rich with flavor; the salads were fresh; the hummus was excellent. Everything was still warm, but not quite steaming hot. I actually returned to the physical Mr. Gyro’s later that day and ate a meal fresh off the pan — it was much better this way. Our food at the office had lost some of its heat while sitting in the car.
Here’s how our bill turned out:
- 2 Gyro Sandwich – $11.98
- 1 Gyro Sandwich – $5.99
- 1 Gyro Plate – $9.89
- 1 Falafel Plate – $9.89
- 1 Shawarma (Chicken) – $8.05
- 1 Shawarma Plate (Chicken) – $11.75
- 1 Hummus – $4.75
- 2 Greek Fries – $4.50
- 1 Greek Salad – $7.69
Food cost: $74.49
Delivery fee: $9.99 (waived for our first order)
Gratuity: $13.40 (automatically pre-set to 18% of food cost)
Total (with tax): $94.98
One other complaint about Mr. Gyro’s was that it didn’t give us any utensils or extra plates. But as far as Caviar, we were impressed. The online-ordering system was slick, while the real-time tracker was a nice touch. Meanwhile, the customer service we experienced was impeccable.
We also enjoyed not having to deal with the sometimes-awkward situation of tipping our driver, since Caviar charges an automatic gratuity fee.
Food rating: 4.3/5
Delivery Process rating: 4.8/5
Total score for Caviar: 9.1/10
Bitesquad’s online interface was a bit overwhelming and text-heavy — at least more so than Caviar — but it was intuitive and had all the information I wanted. There were about 140 restaurants to pick from:
Bitesquad had a nice Yelp integration, easily allowing users to read reviews with just one click. On Friday morning, I decided on La Vita E Bella, an Italian joint in Belltown that had four stars on Yelp. After adding enough food to my order — there’s a $15 minimum for all restaurants — I set a delivery time for 12 p.m. at our office. I added a special message requesting that our meal arrive at 11:50 a.m., if possible.
From there, we could track our food with Bitesquad’s order tracker:
I received a text message notification that noted how our deliveryman, Patrick, had arrived. One minute later, he showed up outside our office at 11:49 a.m. — just when we requested. Patrick was wearing a green Bitesquad uniform and carried the food in a black warming bag.
Our food was somewhat lukewarm, which was disappointing. The pizza and pasta were decent, but nothing special. La Vita E Bella did not give us utensils or plates, either. There was also something off-putting about eating Italian pasta dishes out of a to-go box.
Here was our bill:
- 1 Braccio Di Ferro Salad with Chicken Breast – $9.95
- 1 Caprese Salad – $7.95
- 1 Spaghetti al Porro – $9.95
- 1 New York Pizza – $10.95
- 1 Margherita Pizza – $8.95
- 1 Paglia e Fieno with Grilled Chicken – $11.95
- 1 Funghi Salsiccia Crepe – $9.95
Tip (we picked 15% when ordering online; this does not go direct to driver): $10.45
Delivery Charge: $5.99
Order Total: $94.85
All in all, our Bitesquad experience was good. The ordering process was easy, the online tracking system was nice, and our delivery came at exactly when we wanted. But the food from La Vita E Bella didn’t blow us away, and in the end our group preferred Mr. Gyro’s.
Food rating: 3.3/5
Delivery Process rating: 4.7/5
Total score for Bitesquad: 8
Out of the services we tested, Postmates is likely the company people are most familiar with. The San Francisco-based startup, which has raised $23 million to date, is available in six cities nationwide and makes deliveries from any store — not just restaurants. It launched in Seattle back in March 2013.
Unfortunately, Postmates only allows ordering via its mobile app — meaning purchases on a laptop was not an option. This was a little annoying.
Regardless, I signed up using my Facebook account and jumped into the Android app. Postmates offered some “Featured Stores,” but these were based on how close each store was. There was no option to see a full list of different restaurants, other than searching for a specific joint. So, unless you knew exactly what place you wanted to order from, this was troublesome.
I ended up using Yelp to find good a barbecue spot in Seattle. Eventually I picked Bitterroot, a popular Ballard restaurant about 10 minutes away from our office.
That’s when I ran into another problem: You can’t place an order unless the establishment is actually open.
I ended up placing items into my shopping cart and then waited until 11 a.m. to actually call for a Postmates courier. Thankfully, Postmates guarantees all deliveries within one hour, so we were still all set for a 12 p.m. team meeting.
Ordering on the app was super easy, although descriptions of each item were not provided — Caviar and Bitesquad had those. Aside from that, no complaints.
From this point, Postmates shined. Someone named Kate accepted my delivery within seconds, and I used the app to track Kate as she drove from downtown all the way to Ballard. The app updated nearly every step of the way, from the moment Kate accepted the order, to when she picked up the order, to when she was making her way toward our office. This was similar to transportation apps like Uber and Lyft.
I actually called Kate to let her know that I could meet her just outside of our office building since I was arriving at about the same time. She showed up just before 11:50 a.m. and greeted me with a smile and two big paper bags.
Kate then handed me her phone, from which I could confirm the order, sign a receipt electronically, rate Kate’s performance on a 5-star basis, and add a tip — which went directly to her. This was different from Caviar and Bitesquad, which did not have its drivers make me do anything with a smartphone.
Kate told me that she had just moved to Seattle and started working for Postmates as a way to make some money, discover new restaurants and meet people. Again, this service reminded me of Uber and Lyft, whose drivers often say something similar about the interactions with customers.
The food, meanwhile, was still quite warm. From the loaded mac-and-cheese to the pulled pork, this order was a hit with the GeekWire crew — perhaps the best food we had ordered yet. There were also utensils and small containers of various BBQ sauces, so props to Bitterroot for that.
Here’s our bill:
- Pulled Pork – $8
- Pulled Pork Sandwich (w/ 2 sides) – $12
- Sliced Beef Brisket (w/ 2 sides) – $17
- Pulled Chicken – $8
- Loaded Mac & Cheese – $10
- Smoked Chicken Casear Salad – $13
- Smoked Jalapeno Hushpuppies – $5
- Braised Greens – $3
- Baked Beans – $3
Service fee (9%): $7.78
Delivery fee (starts at $5, goes up depending on distance): $7.75
Tip (10%, all to the driver): $10.20
Overall, I had a few more complaints about Postmates’ ordering process compared to Caviar and Bitesquad. Postmates also had a service fee that the two other companies did not include.
But the mobile app was pretty slick once I figured out what I wanted to eat, and the tracking system was a step up compared to the two previous services.
The food was excellent — warm, flavorful, and left everyone satisfied. Aside from the early trouble with Postmates, this was a great lunch.
Food Rating: 4.7/5
Delivery Service Rating: 4.1/5
Total score for Postmates: 8.8
And simple is probably the best way to describe Peachd, which was founded by three former Amazon engineers. While the other three services let us select from an array of restaurants, Peachd delivers one dish per day to various locations around Seattle.
Here’s how it works. Between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Peachd sends a text message to members with a link for that day’s selected dish, which costs an average of $10. Customers have an hour to place an order by responding with a “yes” text, and their food will show up an hour later at a pre-determined office space.
However, you can get a sneak peek at menu items by viewing individual pages dedicated for each office space pick-up location. The closest “activated” delivery spot to GeekWire HQ was the new Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) building just east of Gasworks Park in Seattle.
On this particular Wednesday, the AI2 office menu was having two dishes from Facing East Bellevue delivered. One option was a pork and chicken bento box; the other was similar, but with no meat. I selected two boxes of the meat version for my colleague Todd and I. Within just a few clicks, the ordering process was complete (I had already entered my credit card information when creating an account). This was by far the most seamless ordering experience yet.
While I drove toward the office, Peachd sent me a text message noting that my food had been delivered 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled pick-up time. At this point, I thought about how simple and easy the Peachd experience was.
But simple turned into complicated when I made my way inside the AI2 building. I met Kelli, the office manager, at the front desk and asked if she had seen any food deliveries come through.
Turns out Kelli saw 32 bento boxes show up — that’s because she also ordered from Peachd, too. AI2 was ordering for a company lunch and had 11 vegetarian and 19 meat meals delivered.
Unfortunately for us, Kelli was not aware that two of the 32 boxes were actually ours. Peachd didn’t label the lunches, nor did I notify Peachd that a non-AI2 employee was ordering on this day — was I expected to?
By the time I arrived at AI2, there were only vegetarian boxes available. I ended up taking the two vegetarian meals — which came with utensils, a napkin, and was still warm — back to GeekWire.
The quality and flavor of the food was decent, but since we expected fried chicken and grilled pork, this was undoubtedly a letdown for two meat eaters.
I ended up emailing Peachd customer service about my issue and received a response within minutes. The Peachd employee apologized for the mix-up, admitted error, refunded both of my orders, and gave me a free meal. The company even offered to add our GeekWire office to its list of “activated locations.”
Peachd does not offer a way to see past purchases, which seems expected from a delivery service. But here’s our very simple bill:
- 2 Buddhas Delight Bento Box – $22
It was nice not having to worry about tip, tax, or delivery fees. And while we were certainly left disappointed with our lunch, it was equally impressive to watch the Peachd customer service quickly respond to us, offer help, and even include our office in their database. The food was a letdown, but the way Peachd responded to our complaints made us want to try the service out again.
Food Rating: 2.8/5
Delivery Service Rating: 4.8/5
Total score for Peachd: 7.6
After testing three rather new delivery companies, we thought it would be interesting to try a more traditional catering service.
I Googled “lunch delivery Seattle,” and found this Seattle MET article that listed a few options. Blueacre Seafood, a local restaurant near Amazon.com’s headquarters, seemed to have nice boxed lunch options so I went with that.
Online orders had to be placed by 5 p.m. to guarantee next day delivery — unlike the order-when-you-want-it style of services like Caviar and Postmates — but luckily I was online at around that time the day before we needed lunch.
The ordering process, although not aesthetically-pleasing — no photos, old school design format — was simple. There were 11 options to pick from with a variety of choices: Chicken salad; beef brisket sandwich; BLT. After picking the food, there were three delivery time options: 10:30-to-11; 11-to-11:30; 11:30-12.
At this point it was obvious that Blueacre, which is not a delivery service, offered far less flexibility than the other companies. But regardless, we wanted good grub delivered at lunchtime on a Friday, and Blueacre seemed equipped to provide that.
I submitted my order and the next morning received a call from the restaurant. They needed my credit card information to pay for the meals. Again, this was slightly inconvenient compared to the other services, but not too much of a hassle.
Our delivery showed up on time at the office in six individual paper bags. We had to sign a receipt and tip our deliveryman — a situation that could be avoided with Caviar and Bitesquad.
The food was fresh and above average. The dagwood sandwiches were particularly satisfying, with soft bread and large amounts of sliced meat. Each lunch included chips, fresh fruit, a cookie, utensils, and a water bottle — all nice touches. However, there was one complaint about the salad being just mediocre.
Here’s how our bill came out:
- 1 Chilled Torchio Pasta – $12.95
- 1 Windsor Court & Dungeness Crab Salad – $12.95
- 1 Grilled Bristol Bay Salmon Salad – $12.95
- 2 Dagwood Sandwich – $25.90
- 1 The Heirloom Tomato BLT – $12.95
Using a traditional service like Blueacre was an interesting test. The ordering process, although somewhat foolproof, was inefficient and inflexible compared to the others. Our meals were also a tad bit more expensive than our previous lunches.
But at the end of the day, we wanted good food delivered to our door at lunch — and Blueacre got it done without much hassle.
Food Rating: 4/5
Delivery Service Rating: 3.8/5
Total score for Blueacre: 7.8
The final two new delivery services we tested are in a league of their own. Lish and Munchery, both which launched in Seattle this month, use professional chefs who prepare meals that are delivered cold to your door and require customers to use a microwave or oven to warm the food (unless you prefer it cold).
We first tried out Munchery, a Bay Area startup that has reeled in $32 million from investors like Yammer co-founder David Sacks and Yelp co-founder Russel Simmons. The company’s Seattle launch marks the company’s first expansion outside of San Francisco.
Munchery has its own kitchen in Seattle where local chefs prepare new meals each weekday (it also partners with independent chefs who make meals in their own kitchen). Customers can browse through the company’s website, check out what’s on the daily menu, and order food to be delivered in the evening either on the same day or later in the week. There is also an on-demand option that allows people to have food at their doorsteps within 20 to 40 minutes.
The entire Munchery process starts on their website or iOS app, where you can browse the menu and pick meals that look tasty. Each food item has detailed descriptions from the chef, information about potential allergic ingredients, and reviews from other Munchery customers.
The web interface is slick and seamless. My colleague Daniel and I ended up choosing five items — Louisiana crab cakes, chile lime beef, shrimp and pork wonton soup, summer green salad, summer strawberry cake — and picked a delivery time in the 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. time frame.
At about 4:30 p.m., our deliveryman Dave showed up at our office door with a large white tote bag. He gave us preparation instructions for each of our dishes, which were definitely chilled, and soon it was time to give the food a try.
First up was the crab cakes, which we first tried cold and then used a microwave to warm them up. Chef Bo Maisano’s crab was fresh, and the tartar dressing sauce provided a nice compliment. The dish was equally good cold, as it came, or warmed up in the microwave (Munchery recommends using an oven to warm food, though the microwave produced sufficient results for us).
The chile lime beef was also excellent. Even though the meat was enjoyable cold, a 30-second zap in the microwave let the full flavors really come out. The asparagus, couscous, and pesto dressing were all nice touches.
The salad and strawberry cake were also enjoyable. The soup, though, was bland and underwhelming.
Here was our bill:
- 1 Crab Cakes — $9.95
- 1 Chili Lime Beef — $9.95
- 1 Green Salad — $4.95
- 1 Wonton Soup — $6.95
- 1 Strawberry Cake — $5.95
Delivery fee: $2.95 (you can also get free delivery on all orders for $39/year)
Tip: $0 (Munchery said its drivers do not expect gratituy)
When it was all said and done, Daniel and I were happy with both the quality and portion size of our inaugural Munchery meal. There were a couple minor complaints: No utensils and the soup left us a little disappointed.
But the crab cakes were on point, that beef was gushing with flavor, and the entire ordering process — starting with the efficient web interface and ending with Dave’s friendly on-time delivery — was impressive.
Food Rating: 4.8/5
Delivery Service Rating: 4.5/5
Total score for Munchery: 9.3
Lish was our final test. Just like Peachd, the startup was founded by former Amazon employees. Lish is similar to Munchery in that it delivers cold meals, but is different in that it does not hire its own chefs.
Instead, the company allows cooks to make their meals either at Lish’s kitchen in Seattle or at their own restaurants.
“Lish is a meals marketplace where local chefs prepare authentic from-scratch meals that they are the best at making,” CEO Aakhil Fardeen explained. “Each chef decides their own menu, buys fresh ingredients and prepares the meals — things that they enjoy doing the most. Lish does the heavy lifting with technology, marketing and delivery.”
Unfortunately, Lish is only available on iOS, so I had to use a colleague’s iPhone to order dinner for myself. The app only allowed me to log in with Facebook, so those without an account — or people who prefer not to use Facebook as log in credentials — may find this cumbersome.
Anyways, there were six meals to pick from and each had nice photos with descriptions from the chef who prepared the dish. There was also a way to view the chef’s profile page, which included more background information about the cook and “endorsements” from other customers.
I picked out a vegetable lasagne made by Prakash Niroula, who is actually the head chef over at Amazon’s headquarters, and a chicken biryani made by Nasreen Sheikh. There was something cool about knowing which chef I was ordering from — this was similar to my Munchery experience, too. If I liked these dishes, I could see myself more inclined to purchase another meal from the same chef in the future.
I got my order in before the 5 p.m. cutoff time, and delivery was expected between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. I actually emailed Lish support because I needed the food by 6 p.m. — a response came minutes later noting that this could be done.
At 5:25 p.m., I received a text message notifying me that the food would arrive at 5:45 p.m. Sure enough, another text message from “Devin,” noted that my delivery would be arriving within minutes.
Devin appeared at our office door with a paper bag. He shed some light on Lish as a business and said that the service allows local chefs to reach customers that they would have never had been able to serve before.
“There are so many good cooks out there, but they are stuck in kitchens,” he said. “Lish brings these chefs out of the dark and into the light.”
The two meals came in plastic containers and were chilled:
Each dish had heating instructions — similar to Munchery, again — and I zapped the food for a few minutes in the microwave.
The process reminded me of warming up a TV dinner, but the quality of Lish’s food was far better than what you’ll find in the frozen aisle of a grocery store. The lasagne had the right consistency, the tomato sauce was excellent, and the cooked vegetables provided a nice side. It wasn’t the greatest Italian dish I’ve eaten, but certainly restaurant quality.
The Chicken Biryani was equally good and gave off an awesome aroma. The chicken itself was a bit dry, though this could have been a result of using a microwave instead of an oven. Regardless, I enjoyed both meals.
Here was the bill:
- 1 Vegetable Lasagne – $9.99
- 1 Chicken Biryani — $11.99
Delivery fee: $3.99 (flat fee for all orders)
Lish’s ordering process was easy and I liked the big pictures and insight into each chef. But the startup lacks both an Android app and desktop client, both of which would have made my experience even better.
In terms of food quality, Lish certainly passed that test. However, I preferred Munchery’s meals a tad more — though that could be because I like crab cakes more than lasagna.
Food Rating: 4.4/5
Delivery Service Rating: 4.3/5
Total score for Lish: 8.7
So what did we learn from all this? On a surface level, there are a million ways to order all types of food in Seattle. But while there have been options to get grub to your door for years now, new services like Munchery, Peachd, and Lish are taking advantage of technology and software to improve the entire process.
Are we sitting on a food delivery bubble? Perhaps. We’ve been talking to CEOs of these companies and investors who have given money to the startups to help understand what exactly is going on in this space. Check back on GeekWire later this week for that report.