Food from new delivery service Comfort & Joy. Editorial credit: Jikoni
Food delivery brands and restaurant services have had quite a year as the world continues to face a global pandemic. Companies in the UK are no different, having battled through two national lockdowns and blurrily navigated a set of ever-changing rules and restrictions on outside gathering and eating.
Whether the new rules encouraged Londoners to experiment with cooking freshly delivered ingredients or tempted them into ordering takeout from their favourite restaurants, the food and beverage industry has definitely experienced a boom. Delivery startup Deliveroo alone, after repeatedly struggling to turn a profit for years, was suddenly able to maintain a positive cash flow through May and June.
The Org looked at the top ten delivery and produce services and restaurants which have either shown rapid growth or inspired innovation during this period.
Veganism has taken off in the food and beverage industry in a big way; the proportion of Brits who have eaten meat substitutes has risen to 65% in the past two years. Vegan meal delivery service allplants has been at the helm of it all. Founded by brothers JP and Alex Petrides in 2017, the company has already made its mark in the industry with a number of Great Taste awards.
The food delivery boom has only strengthened allplants’ already growing popularity; at the beginning of this year, the company sold its millionth meal - a number which doubled only ten months later. In March of this year, the vegan powerhouse completed a £4.5m crowdfunding campaign; the largest-ever crowdfund by any vegan business in the world. Impressively, some 76% of over 1,800 investors were not vegan themselves.
Ambassador General Store
The lockdowns have had few silver linings for businesses, but the potential for innovative new ways to support commerce has been one of them. Enter Ambassador General Store, which launched in October of this year. The platform, launched by JKS Restaurants, offers meal boxes, ready dishes, and drinks from three of its beloved Indian restaurants: Trishna, Brigadiers, and Michelin-starred Gymkhana. JKS Restaurants is managed by three siblings: Karam, Sunaina, and Jyotin Sethi. The platform also includes ‘The Daru Shop,’ which provides pantry items and alcohol, including cocktail kits and beers.
Together, the Sethi siblings are behind some of the most popular new London restaurants, such as Sri Lankan Hoppers, the third best restaurant on Time Out’s ‘100 best restaurants in London' list. A few years ago, four of the top 45 restaurants in the country were run by them. Now, the Sethis are experimenting with adapting their success on online platforms.
Deliveroo, Uber Eats, and other delivery apps have enjoyed a boom of revenue throughout the pandemic. However, the revenue models for those companies has often meant individual restaurants lose out on revenue - which has led to the creation of apps like Big Night. The app was launched by Charlie Mellor, owner of the east London restaurant The Laughing Heart, during the first lockdown this year, surpassing its £100k crowdfunding target by 273%. The app focuses on empowering hospitality staff who have been hit by the pandemic.
Mellor offered out-of-work hospitality staff £5 per delivery made, and soon they were able to earn above the London Living Wage. It’s a tempting deal for restaurants as well - Big Night’s commission is currently at 5-6.5%, compared to the 30-40% taken out by the giants. Ethos is important to Mellor, as is careful scaling and making sure that Big Night pairs up with restaurants who value their independence - which is why the platform will be more curated and focused than a one-for-all space. Big Night’s growth model is also reliant on higher order volumes than its competitors.
Big Night is focusing on building up a network of London restaurants and says they are, “going up against the big players and showing them how to do it better.”
Blacklock is a household name amongst London foodies. The chophouse is famous for cooking up its cuts on an old ‘Blacklock’ iron - so when the second lockdown nudged them to experiment with delivery, meat fans were excited. Thus, Blacklock at Home was born.
The delivery service has been wildly popular, with influencers raving on socials and Harper’s Bazaar deeming it one of the “best luxury delivery services in London.” Blacklock considers every detail in the delivery service, which can include chops, sauce, chips, a kale and parmesan salad, and white chocolate cheesecake with options for alcohol. They even suggest Spotify playlists for different occasions, like date nights, family dinners, and a night in with friends.
Comfort & Joy
Comfort & Joy are two things the world could definitely use a little more of right now, and restaurateur Ravinder Bhogal is trying to do her part by delivering delicious vegetarian meals. The concept was started this year as a sister brand to Bhogal’s internationally flavoured restaurant Jikoni, which she set up with partner Nadeem Lalani in 2016. Now, it’s a Michelin guide restaurant, which serves food inspired by Bhogal’s own multi-cultural background. Dishes include Prawn Toast Scotch Egg, Dhal Makhni Croquetas and Quince and Rosewater Roulade.
Comfort & Joy is a menu of six meal boxes developed by Bhogal, available to order on biweekly rotation. Each one can be ordered either ready to eat or ready to heat.
Hakkasan at Home
Michelin-star Cantonese food can now be enjoyed at home - just in time, as stricter lockdown measures have recently been re-introduced in the South East of England. Hakkasan, an award-winning restaurant in the wealthy Mayfair neighbourhood owned by the Hakkasan Group, has taken its home delivery offerings above and beyond the standard practice.
Not only is delivery of some of the restaurant’s widely popular dishes available, like crispy Peking duck and Hakka noodles, but Hakkasan at Home also offers a “bespoke tailored service including personalised chef consultations, printed menus, table place cards, incense and floral arrangements curated in your own private setting.” Customers are also invited to order alcohol from the restaurant’s “extensive wine cellars and vintage champagnes.”
Mindful Chef was started in 2015 by three university friends - Giles Humphries, Myles Hopper, and Rob Grieg-Gran. Just five years and they were able to bring on Nestlé as a majority stakeholder. The B Corp certified company provides healthy recipe boxes delivered to homes across the UK, with a focus on sustainably sourced ingredients and healthy dishes like Tikka smoked tofu skewers with apple slaw, Brazilian black bean stew and wild rice, and a pulled barbecue jackfruit with avocado salsa. Despite being only five years old, Mindful Chef brings in over £50m in annual revenues, having grown the figure from £8m in the previous financial year.
Nonna Tonda, a restaurant in south London founded in 2017, has moved online to become a fresh pasta delivery service after having to close its physical location due to the pandemic. It’s owned by husband-and-wife team James and Rebecca French, who get up at 4am every morning to roll fresh pasta, ready to be sent out and received that day. Each week, Nonna Tonda introduces its customers to a new pasta recipe, sending sauces, cheese, and garnishes along with the pasta.
All the ingredients are either locally sourced or imported from Italy.
ODDBOX, set up in 2016 by husband-and-wife team Emilie Vanpoperinghe and Deepak Ravindran, works with partners to deliver seasonal produce which would otherwise have gone to waste to people’s doorsteps. So far, the company has helped save more than five tonnes of perfectly good produce from going to waste.
In the past 12 months - it has achieved over 400% growth in its demand, and in its first venture round in March ODDBOX raised £3m. It looks like the produce startup has no signs of stopping in 2021, planning to expand to other areas in the South East of England outside London.
Restaurant-quality pasta can be prepared in just five minutes - according to the team at Pasta Evangelists. The company, founded in 2016 by Alessandro Savelli, delivers fresh pasta, sauces, and garnishes “sourced from Italy” to pasta-lovers’ doors and promises that they will allow you to “prepare a 5* pasta dish.”
Early this year, Pasta Evangelists raised £3.5m for expansion and has since gone from strength to strength, jumping on the “premiumisation” trend seen across multiple sectors of the food and beverage industry in which more artisanal ingredients and craftsmanship are becoming popular. The first lockdown saw the Pasta Evangelists demand for its pasta-boxes more than quadruple, and this Christmas head chef Roberta D’Elia is offering virtual masterclasses for beginners to welcome this year’s success into 2021.
As the holiday season approaches and the restrictions on businesses tighten in more areas in the UK, it can feel discouraging to innovate in food; but it is these businesses’ hard work which has helped a lot of people fill their time with delicious food, new hobbies, and much more exciting pantry picks.
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