Online food delivery services have yet to steal much takeout business away from traditional restaurants. But one of them, San Francisco-based Munchery, has already made successful raids on kitchen staffs, tempting talented chefs with an offer that’s tough to refuse.
The lure: great pay, 9-5-type hours, no weekends, built-in personal brand building plus all the buzz that goes with working at a hot tech startup. If successful, this company’s approach could make it harder for restaurants to hang on to top culinary talent than it already is.
Munchery is one of several companies that hope to be as disruptive to the restaurant industry as Uber is to the taxi business and AirBnB has been in lodging. The three-year-old startup recently raised $28 million in a funding round led by venture capitalists SherpaVentures. Other investors include moviemaker/Top Chef judge Jon Favreau and chef/street food legend Roy Choi.
So far, so good for Munchery. The company passed the one-million-meal-served mark in September and is already expanding into a second market, Seattle. “At this point, Munchery is the largest restaurant in the world if you go by the number of orders it’s doing in San Francisco alone from one kitchen,” says lead investor Shervin Pishevar. That kitchen is a 5,600 sq. ft. facility located in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Like most online meal delivery companies, Munchery offers customers a wide range of food options and delivers the chosen items in a hurry. It’s different in that it provides mostly cooked chef-created and -produced meals customers quickly finish off at home. Most other services deliver hot meals from actual restaurants.
“Chef-created and -produced” tends to be a vague term, but it isn’t at Munchery. The company has brought in high-profile chefs, attracting them with a work schedule and benefit package any restaurant would be hard-pressed to match.
Munchery cofounder Tri Tran tells Fast Company how it works: “Munchery pays its chefs on salary 30 percent more than the industry—with some of the most experienced earning six figures a year. In addition to benefits and a stable paycheck, the chefs hold regular hours and don't work weekends or holidays because Munchery isn't open then.
Plus, Tan says, “they get to experiment with their food. You're building your brand. Your name and photo are right there," Tran says, pointing to a label on a takeout box. "They really get to innovate and flex their culinary muscles.”
Also of note: vacations. Munchery touts an “Open Vacation Policy. Rest when you need it, rock when you don’t.” Higher-ups on the culinary side may also qualify for stock options, the financial end-game of most employees at any new tech venture.
Who’s buying in? The chefs who joined Munchery in San Francisco primarily came from executive chef positions at highly ranked local restaurants. The most recent hire: Scott Newman, formerly executive chef at San Francisco’s legendary Rubicon. In Seattle, ex-Painted Table executive chef Emily Moore has hired on as Munchery’s culinary manager.
Here’s Munchery's full pitch for another open position in Seattle, a “resident chef.”
• No front of house stress, because there is no front of house.
• Creative freedom to constantly create tasty new dishes and offerings.
• Only limited by your passion, imagination and ingenuity to bring your ideas to life. No limits on cuisines, themes or styles. Variety is the name of the game.
• The finest, freshest and local ingredients are at your disposal.
• Build your brand beyond the kitchen walls. Your face and name on your creations and in front of thousands of people daily.
• Work environment is part Silicon Valley, part high-end restaurant, but 100% innovative, and always fun.
Even better yet...
• Starting salaries above & beyond market rates.
• 100% covered medical, dental & vision benefits.
• PTO and most major holidays off.
• Employee stock options for Principal Chef level.
• Relocation packages to move to Seattle, a foodie paradise. There is a limited quantity of relocation funds and will only be offered to select chefs based on past experience, talent, accomplishments, and other factors.
Few traditional restaurant operators can come close to matching a job offer like this one. But some of them may have to, because Munchery has multiple culinary job openings posted on its site right now, including positions in future expansion markets Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, DC. The success of the company’s recent funding round means it will have plenty of cash to set up shop in these cities.
It’s still unknown whether any of the many online meal delivery service models, including this one, will succeed. But be ready if Munchery sets up shop in your area. It may or may not be disruptive to your town’s local restaurant industry. But it could be a disruptive force among your kitchen staffers, particularly at the top.