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Bento Is the Latest Meal Delivery Service to Shut Down

Following in the same footsteps as Din and Spoonrocket

A Bento box
A Bento box

It hasn’t been the best year for San Francisco food apps. Some recent highlights lowlights include:

SpoonRocket, an App-Driven Food Delivery Service, Ceases Operations
Recipe Delivery Service Din Has Shut Down
Munchery Replaces Co-Founder and CEO on a Quest for Profitability
Tech-Driven Food Delivery Startups Aren’t Immune to SF’s Restaurant Woes
Meal-Delivery Company Sprig Goes Lean

Now, add the demise of Bento to the list. Founders Jason Demant and Vincent Cardillo started Bento in 2015 with $1.5 million of venture capital money as a meal delivery service of your choice of a main dish and four sides prepared daily by a kitchen managed by Top Chef alum Mattin Noblia. Demant and Cardillo posted a letter to the Bento website last week that announced the food delivery service’s closure. It read, in part:

As of Friday December 9th, Bento has closed down our kitchen, and is no longer open for business. We had hoped to find a new home and a new owner, but we were unable to do so.

Over the last few months we have seen incredible growth. Going from serving only 100 meals per day in May, to 700 meals per day in December. This was incredible growth in such a short time. We worked with EAT Club, Zesty, Caviar Fastbite, and many others to serve these meals with great success.

With this growth, we began to hit profitability as well. In October and November, our business hit full net profitability.

Despite these successes, there were a few major issues with the business:

Low gross margin dollars -- We were now wholesaling our meals which meant that we were selling meals for much less. Despite the lower sales price we were still making a healthy margin on each meal, however, the total margin dollars were low. In order to finance research & development and a more robust management team, we needed to sell a LOT more meals, which was becoming increasingly difficult.

Growing further was going to be challenging -- We were starting to run into major issues around our kitchen size, the timing of meals, and other logistical challenges.

Personal financial challenges -- While the business was profitable, I was unable to pay myself a sustainable salary.

Demant went on to say that he and Cardillo had tried to find a buyer, and despite “several promising discussions,” were unable to do so.

Bento is just the latest local food delivery service to bite the dust. Back in October, Din named a crowded market and a shift in funding as the reasons for its closure, while Spoonrocket said the same just a few months prior. Meanwhile, Caviar, Munchery, and Sprig are all experiencing growing pains, with Caviar looking for a buyer, Munchery struggling to turn a profit and Sprig scaling back operations. It’s unclear who will come out on the other side of this obvious correction in the online delivery business.