The delivery industry isn’t lacking for youthful energy and big ideas. MealMe, a new and still-evolving service from a pair of recent college grads, combines an aggregator function to help consumers price compare delivery options from local restaurants with the ability to make a reservation and share food pics—but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The company’s co-founders hope to expand the offering to give at-home chefs the ability to sell their prepared meals through the app.
Described as a “moonshot idea” that could revolutionize the food-delivery landscape, MealMe co-founder Matthew Bouchner acknowledged the many legal, logistical and regulatory challenges that currently prevent everyday people from turning their home kitchens into de facto ghost kitchens. Even so, he said that idea is “critical and foundational” to the future of the company, but one that will likely take a while to implement in various stages.
“I don’t see MealMe as being just a food delivery price comparison app, MealMe Price Comparison is just the beginning,” Bouchner said, adding that he plans to be the top food delivery aggregator in a space that’s rapidly seeing new competitors emerge. “There’s at least one area where it’s already legal, and that’s in enabling people who already have food safety licenses to cook at a personal chef level at other peoples’ homes, and then on the other side of things, you can legally have friends over to your house and provide them a meal, and we can start by enabling groups of people who already share meals together to do that more easily.”
No word on whether dinner party guests would be required to tip their generous hosts, but he likened the idea to how Uber has enabled anyone to make extra money on the side. Timing isn’t certain, but he said he plans to start MealMe Chef sometime in 2021.
“We do have this moonshot goal in mind, but, for the time being, I don’t have all the answers,” Bouchner added. “We can focus on one thing at a time, and right now it’s building the best food delivery aggregator out there.”
So far, that more attainable goal is off to a promising start. After officially launching on May 1, MealMe has 1,000 weekly active members and 3,000 using the service every month. Projecting a “modest 30 percent month-over-month growth rate,” the company expects to have 50,000 users in hand by the end of 2020.
The company claims to save its customers an average of $5 every time they use MealMe, which Bouchner said is especially helpful as the various fees, surge chargers and other additional costs make delivery both more expensive and more confusing for delivery customers.
With the ability for users to also book reservations and share photos of their favorite dishes, MealMe incorporates crucial bits from both Yelp and Instagram. Since its first launch, the company has made tweaks to the social functions of the service, so users that aren’t interested in social networking can solely focus on price comparison.
With guests posting their own food pics, restaurants can also claim their brand pages on MealMe and post their own pictures, giving them the ability to interact with customers “on a human level, rather than with other platforms that might be just ratings based.” Bouchner stressed that his company’s future success depends on giving guests a better, more engaging user experience than they can find on popular delivery brands, and he said a big part of that is giving them a wider selection of restaurants than any single delivery service can.
Another key part of the MealMe model is affiliate marketing partnerships with three of the four largest U.S. delivery providers. By sending them hungry users ready to make a deal, Bouchner likened the practice to Kayak and Priceline, which earn a portion of transactions they facilitate for travelers. Another portion of the brand’s revenue stream is in-app advertisements for restaurants looking to reach customers who are ready to place an order.
MealMe’s other founder, Will Said ,is a software developer and has previously helped create several other popular iOS apps. While the pair feels that anything’s possible in terms of adding new verticals, like alcohol or grocery, to the platform, Bouchner said they are constantly getting customer feedback to find out what else users would like to see on their MealMe screens.
Adding that he was once focused on becoming a chef, and even hosted his own public access Cajun cooking show, Bouchner said bringing MealMe to market has been a team effort with mentors, feedback from users and his co-founder that he called a “whiz kid.”
I won’t be holding my breath until the day I can start slinging my own not-yet-famous Fall Slop or Sorghum Panna Cotta recipes, but I also might head back into my test kitchen for some final revisions and packaging tests just in case.