Well that didn’t take long.
Within weeks of rolling out its cheap $6 service in SF, SpoonRocket turned out to be too good to be true. Yesterday it announced it was upping the price to $8 a meal including delivery. Still not a bad deal, but now it costs just as much as a burrito or gourmet sandwich around the corner, and it’s not nearly as good.
I always wondered how the food preparation and delivery startup had managed to undercut its competitors so deeply. At $6 a meal, it was half the cost of the likes of Sprig, Chefler, and Munchery.
I chalked it up to poorer quality ingredients. The two meals I had ordered from SpoonRocket were pasta concoctions dripping with grease, the sort of fare served up in my college cafeteria. It was a far cry from dishes like “chicken sage sausage with house made grain mustard” I had tried from Sprig. But it was half the cost and delivered at lunch, so that was good enough for me. Cheap and fast like miracle food.
But with the new rate — allegedly to make the portion sizes larger although I didn’t notice the difference — SpoonRocket is already losing fans.
Since the price hike this week, SpoonRocket’s Yelp page has exploded with more than forty negative reviews. I stopped counting at 40 — the rants kept going. They were almost all some variation on: Hey, I used to love you but you’re just not worth this price.
A H. With the new price hike to $8, it’s the same price for me to grab something around my office, and I don’t have to limit myself to 2 pre-selected choices. Bummer. Back to the lunch grind.
Chris G. Food tasted better when it was $2 cheaper.
Margaret W. One of every four meals is good; the other two are mediocre at best. A good business plan gone bad! Sorry, SpoonRocket, it was a great idea but not anymore! I’m out!
When asked for comment, a SpoonRocket spokesperson sent Pando the following statement:
After considerable feedback regarding food, compostable packaging and portion sizes from our customers, we have made significant improvements to provide a better quality product and service. Our reasonable price of $8 with free delivery reflects these improvements and we look forward to serving more customers as we continue to grow.
Because that’s what most people say about food in this country: The portion sizes are just too damn small.
So where does this leave other food delivery startups? Perhaps breathing a sigh of relief. Even I had started questioning the worth of 5-star-yelp reviewed Chefler and Sprig, of which I’m a fan, when I could order sustenance from SpoonRocket for half the price.
Of course, food preparation and delivery isn’t a winner take all space, and plenty of SpoonRocket’s customers won’t be turning to its higher priced competitors. A huge chunk of them are Berkeley students, since that’s where the company got its start, and they’re likely to return to the delicious and cheap local options.
The new SF-based SpoonRocket users may stick around a little longer, since many of them are SOMA startups with more money to burn than college kids and less cheap local options around them.
The friend who introduced me to SpoonRocket has doubled down on his fandom of the company in light of the price raising. He thinks it will allow them to offer higher quality meats more often, like chicken and beef instead of just pork. But this is the same friend who is psyched to go on a one month Soylent diet and drinks from the Rob Rhinehart gospel, so he may not exactly be a culinary everyman.
If SpoonRocket is the first to cave on price, could the higher quality food startups come next? That’s what I’ve wondered with Chefler, Sprig, and Munchery. I can’t imagine their margins look great when they’re charging a $12 flat fee — that includes delivery and tip — for high-quality, restaurant-level meals.
As for SpoonRocket itself, who knows how long it will awkwardly try to straddle the worlds of mediocre food and higher price. It may have no choice financially but to do so.
One Yelp commenter sums up the sentiment of the masses:
Clara W. I used to love you, spoon rocket. Now I think you sold your Berkeley soul.