You can get the porchetta sandwich from Porchetta, too. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Earlier this week on Eater, Nick Solares took a deep look into the premium delivery service Caviar, which recent launched in Manhattan after debuts in San Francisco and Seattle. The service charges customers a flat fee of $9.99 for delivery from a select group of about 30 restaurants from Ma Peche to Sticky's Finger Joint, many of which (but not all) offer delivery exclusively through Caviar.

For restaurants it's a great deal. Caviar employs its own messengers and doesn't charge its member businesses a percentage of sales like its competitors Seamless and GrubHub. Beyond the initial investment of a high quality menu photo shoot, which for a large menu like Katz's "took over four hours," the only cost to restaurants is the to-go containers they stock anyway.

But what about the consumer? Nick placed an order from Ma Peche, a 3.4 mile trip from his office, noting the easy site navigation and timely 25-minute delivery, but:

Ma Peche's packaging might have survived a casual walk from the restaurant, but it was not so lucky on the bumpy, pothole strewn bicycle ride down from Midtown. The oil from the rice cakes leaked all over the bag, leaving a greasy slick in its wake. Fortunately the offending dish was on the bottom of the bag.

So how was the food?

[It] tasted just like good food that is delivered, which is to say never as good as the same food in the restaurant. This is, of course, endemic to all delivery services and a compromise that is inevitable.

Back when I worked in Midtown East, Ma Peche was a short walk away and held a regular spot in the office take out rotation. I felt a similar experience of "good, but not the same as fresh," even with just a 10-minute trip on foot. Of course, depending on the kind of food you order, your mileage may vary.

According to Caviar's CEO Jason Wang, 40% of the company's accounts and 65% of its revenue are corporate, which makes the fixed fee easier to swallow and positions the startup as hybrid personal delivery and office catering service. It'll be interesting to see how Caviar will fit against its mostly dreary turkey sandwich catering competition as well as New York's crowded delivery-ready market.

Would you or your office pay a $10 premium for an easy-to-navigate delivery service that offers exclusive restaurants and a wide delivery radius? Have you tried it yourself? Let us know in the comments.

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the New York editor and ice cream maker in residence at Serious Eats. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.


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