You might think new ideas in food startups are done to death. From ghost kitchens to 10-minute grocery deliveries, lots of people buy and cook our food, so we don’t have to.
Today, an American company called Wonder has created a whole new business model: home chefs.
It’s a bit of a new idea. Consumers order food through a mobile app. The food is pre-cooked (in ghost or restaurant kitchens), but it gets to you in a van equipped with a kitchen and a chef who finishes your meal in the truck right outside your door – using amenities like pennies vacuums and specialized ovens.
Who wouldn’t want a fresh meal that hasn’t been sitting in a courier’s cooler bag that’s getting cold and soggy?
But, while it may bring you fresh pizza, it raises questions about sustainability and urban planning.
So what’s wrong with Wonder?
The problem is that while your food is cooking, gasoline-powered Mercedes Benz vans sit idle with the engine running. Idling is really bad for the environment. An idling vehicle releases harmful chemicals, gases and polluting particles into the air. According to US Department of Energyeliminating unnecessary idling of personal vehicles would mean taking 5 million vehicles off the road.
Disturbingly, Wonder’s general manager Scott Hilton told The Wall St Journal that because Wonder’s vans carry refrigerated food, the trucks are exempt from state laws that limit idling to three minutes. .
Plus, they sit in a gray area between food delivery and parked food trucks. For example, partially cooking food in a kitchen exempts the company from regulations regarding the impact of food trucks on neighborhoods.
And idling vans are not only polluting, but can also be very noisy – all to feed one household at a time.
Wonder told the WSJ they are years away from an electric fleet. The company claims to have an ’emission neutral fleet – which is another term for ‘we’re throwing money at the problem’ – instead of going electric. Although they have opted for efficient cooking technology that runs on battery power, their fleet is entirely gas-powered.
Just another sidewalk management headache
Wonder’s business model also raises fundamental questions about what happens when the utility of a residential space changes without consultation with the people who live in the neighborhood.
We’re not talking about a quick drop off of a delivery meal here. People are likely moving to the suburbs to escape the noise of restaurants. And for urban areas, god knows if you could even sit one of these vehicles for an extended period of time on a downtown street!
And that’s just the beginning…
It’s easy to dismiss the idea as a hyperlocal initiative with just a few idling vans annoying a few “not in my backyard” residents (and people like me).
Wonder is only available in 22 cities. Let people have their freshly baked bread!
But the company recently raised a whopping $3.5 billion in funding. Pretty amazing for a company that may be far from turning a profit, especially considering rising gas costs.
And Wonder’s fleet of 200 vans is expected to grow to thousands in the next few years.
that’s a lot of vans block the sidewalk. Even electric vans would take up a good chunk of the parking space.
Additionally, the company’s founder Marc Lore, has a history of building businesses that are acquired. The Pit (an alternative to eBay) was acquired by The Topps Company for $5.7 million. Amazon bought Quidsi for $500 million. Walmart bought Jet.com (an alternative to Amazon) for $3.3 billion.
While I question the profitability of the business in its current iteration and scale, the amount of venture capital funding behind the idea suggests that these are just the first steps in a long-term endeavor. term (if not acquired first). Maybe Uber better start ordering some Canoo Pickup Trucks?