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Munchery

San Francisco's Food Delivery Apps, Reviewed

Stacking up the four major prepared food delivery apps: Bento, Sprig, Munchery, and SpoonRocket

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Pre-made meal deliveries sourced from commissary kitchens are changing the takeout game in San Francisco and beyond. But not all fast-casual delivery apps are created equal. So which should you be using? Bento, Sprig, Munchery, and SpoonRocket are the top four SF players that are poised to succeed nationally (Munchery, Sprig and SpoonRocket are already in other cities), but it's unclear if they can all survive. To test the landscape out and determine which is most likely to thrive on a national level, we anonymously ordered and paid for a meal from each app on consecutive weekdays to compare them on the basic items we look for in a meal delivery app: convenience, flavor, and quality. Here's what we found.


Bento

Bento

Photo: Amy Copperman

The basics: The premise is customizable Bento boxes consisting of your choice of a main dish and four sides prepared daily by a kitchen managed by Top Chef alum Mattin Noblia and delivered curbside, though only to three northeast square miles of the 7x7 at the moment.

App experience: A Bento is advertised as $10 in the app, but when you factor in delivery fee, tax, and tip, the meal comes out to just under $18. It also took 54 minutes to have the food delivered to Nob Hill and more than 30 minutes to get the order confirmation text.

The food: The daily-changing menu offered a fresh, hearty helping of quality sashimi, sushi, Korean BBQ pork, veggies, and jasmine rice that was delivered hot, though two out of the four options are often sold out during the lunch rush.

Sourcing and sustainability: According to the app, Bento's ingredients are "sourced responsibly," but when asked for specifics about the "high standards" they hold their suppliers to, a Bento representative was vague, saying sources vary from week to week and cost prohibits them from using 100 percent local or organic ingredients.

Major takeaway: The company could improve by taking its cues from tip-and-tax inclusive services, apps that track where the order is in the process, and packaging that keeps an eye on waste (there are a lot of parts that end up in recycling).

Sprig

Sprig

Photo: Amy Copperman

The basics: Sprig seeks to change the fast-food industry by offering affordable (around the $14 mark including tip, tax, and delivery fee), quick meals made with healthy, organic ingredients.

App experience: The app boasts high-quality images of yuzu ponzu chicken salad, sous-vide steak and papaya salad, smoky chipotle ribs with collard greens (above) and other varied, healthy options, while an intuitive user experience allows you to easily scroll through ingredients and nutritional information. An order tracker helpfully reassures you the order is on the way if you get antsy during the 15-minute delivery time, which significantly beats the traditional takeout competition.

The food: The quick meals, which fall in the 400 to 700 calorie range, satisfy — and sometimes impress — but quality and flavor can be inconsistent. The first meal was appropriately spiced, while the next seemed to have the salt content usually associated with airplane food.

Sourcing and sustainability: According to Sprig's tagline, all meals are "healthy and organic" — an admirable claim that no competitors listed here are able to make. While the company didn't respond to specific questions on how they comply with USDA organic standards, organic ingredients — including meat and produce sources — are noted in the ordering interface, which is not the case for the other companies compared here. All of their packaging is made from plants and completely compostable, even the plastic.

Major takeaway: Sprig offers solid, healthy options with the best in-app experience, making it a great option, especially if you care about ingredient transparency and minimizing waste.

Munchery

Munchery

Photo: Namthip P./Yelp

The basics: Healthy, simple fare created by chefs Steven Levine (Cosmopolitan), Bridget Batson (Gitane), Jeremy Goldfarb (123 Bolinas) and others and executed in commissary kitchens around the city. You can schedule meals ahead or order on-demand, ready to heat and eat.

App experience: Like Sprig, the app is filled with mouthwatering images and has ingredients and nutritional information readily available. Delivery times are a bit longer — around the 30-minute mark — but the app’s value proposition lies in the quality of the food instead of instant delivery.

The food: Unlike the others on this list, flavorful meals like kimchi burgers, whole roasted chickens, and butternut squash curry can be scheduled ahead of time or ordered on-demand and come almost ready with easy-to-follow heating instructions for both the oven and microwave. Prices are on par with what you’d find in most grocery stores; for example, a whole roasted chicken costs $14 and serves two.

Sourcing and sustainability: According to a Munchery representative, each chef selects ingredients according to their personal standards, prioritizing seasonal, local, all-natural, and organic "when possible" — though it's unclear how often that is, or if there is a base company standard. A company rep says that suppliers include some well-known, local artisan purveyors, such as Cowgirl Creamery and Hodo Soy, but others are Tom Cat Bakery in New York and Shibumi Farms in New Jersey, and we couldn't find mention of any of these brands in the app. As for its packaging, "most" of it is made from recyclable materials and compostable.

Major takeaway: Munchery requires a bit more effort, but delivers the best flavors and nicest presentation. The company is already poised for national expansion with delivery areas in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle and quickly gaining notoriety as the one to watch in the fast-casual, on-demand delivery economy. All of this said, if you're looking for ingredient transparency, you should probably look elsewhere.

SpoonRocket

SpoonRocket

Photo: Amy Copperman

The basics: Healthy delivery in under 15 minutes.

App experience: The sign-up process took a frustrating 15 minutes in which the app froze twice, delivered typo-laden error messages, wouldn’t connect with Facebook, and almost delivered the Korean-style mixed plate to Wisconsin. Once the order was processed, the food was delivered to the curb in under five minutes — much faster than what was indicated and the quickest on this list — but also means that the food had likely been in the car for a long time.

The food: While SpoonRocket has more variety than Sprig and Bento and includes drinks on the daily changing menu, the veggies appeared limp and over-cooked.

Sourcing and sustainability: The app details calorie counts and alerts users if a dish has dairy or gluten in it, but specific ingredients and nutrition are not provided. When asked about their suppliers, a SpoonRocket representative stated, "SpoonRocket constantly seeks out the freshest, most flavorful ingredients with customers appetites in mind. SpoonRocket puts a priority on working with local Bay Area farms and farmers." However, they didn't respond to a request for a supplier list. SpoonRocket also says its packaging is compostable, but customers question the validity of this.

Major takeaway: In general, quality met expectations for a warm (not hot) meal, especially considering the $6 to $10 price point on most items, but the biggest issue is the slow sign-up process that starts the whole user experience on a negative note. And again ingredient sourcing is unclear.

Conclusion

Munchery is the clear winner in terms of quality and diversity of options — and the fact that it allows you to order on-demand or plan ahead, cook, or simply heat up poises it for further national success, though there are the sourcing concerns. If even the minimal heating effort is too much for your day, Sprig with its beautiful imagery, simple user interface, quick delivery, and organic ingredients is also a good option, while SpoonRocket and Bento lag behind with confusing user experiences.

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