According to the Sad Desk Lunch website, ‘62% of American office workers usually eat their lunch in the same spot they work all day’. While here in the UK, ‘one in five Londoners are too scared to even take a lunch break’ according to Stylist Magazine. What then, has caused the death of lunch?
One major problem is the waiting; waiting to be seated, waiting for the menus, waiting for the food, waiting for the bill – who’s got time for all that in today’s busy world? Not entrepreneur Stas Matviyenko, that’s for sure. ‘You spend around 15 to 20% of the time in a restaurant eating, the rest is all waiting,’ he says.
Matviyenko is CEO of Allset, an app that lets you and your colleagues choose your food at nearby restaurants before you’ve even left the office. When you arrive at the restaurant, your table is waiting and the food and drinks are all ready being prepared. And the best bit, when you’re done, just get up and leave. There’s no check or bill to worry about, and even the tip is taken care of.
‘We started with lunches, because the mission here is not just for restaurants to be more productive, the mission is to bring people back from offices to restaurants,’ Matviyenko says. ‘All the focus and money recently has been on food delivery services, but this means restaurants are seeing fewer walk ins.’ This means there’s no chance for up selling, customer interaction, or just providing a quality experience. ‘This app can bring them back,’ Matviyenko explains. ‘We wanted to create a great restaurant experience in under 30 minutes, which is the time it takes to deliver your food to your desk.’
Matviyenko believes there’s a huge gap in the market. ‘Everyone is trying to focus on only mobile payments or only on booking, or only on takeout, or only on delivery – but nobody was doing table [reservations], plus payment, plus food,’ he says. The service is already live in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Austin and Boston, with plans to come to London in late 2017.
The technology behind Allset lets restaurants know what type of food users have previously ordered at other restaurants. This means they can tailor their offering to dishes and drinks they know diners prefer. ‘For example, you might have one guy who likes chocolate cake and always orders it. This means the restaurant can up sell and create a more personal experience,’ Matviyenko says. There was also an unexpected benefit the team didn’t consider – diners found that being able to jump the line and have their table reserved made them feel more like VIPs.
There’s overwhelming evidence that taking a proper lunch break is not only good for your health and wellbeing, it also makes you more creative and more efficient when you come back to work, according to this NPR programme. You can even use it to read. ‘If you look at Google and Facebook, they’re moving away from having a cafeteria to actually opening proper restaurants on their campuses,’ says Matviyenko.
Allset are working in the restaurant space, but they’re not alone, with competition from apps like Velocity, as well as delivery companies such Deliveroo, Just Eat, Uber Eats and high end providers like Supper London. In the US, there’s ‘kit to door’ ready meal businesses such as maple.com and munchery.com, while in Brazil www.chefsclub.com.br has more than 2000 restaurants to choose from and offers a 30%–50% discount. The battle for lunch is hotting up, service please!