BERKELEY -- There's a new business in town whose name, SpoonRocket, suggests the duality of food and speed, letting customers know they'll get meals delivered quickly. Founders and UC Berkeley graduates Anson Tsui and Steven Hsiao have developed a model that promises to deliver healthy, organic meals to your door in 10 minutes or less.
Add to the equation that the food is tasty and healthy and only costs $6 and it's not hard to understand why the SpoonRocket concept is taking off.
Delivery time and cost are the attention-getters, but the food itself is what keeps customers asking for more. Two dishes are offered every day, including one vegan or vegetarian. Executive-chef David Cramer designs and creates the menu daily, working from scratch with fresh ingredients -- local, organic, seasonal produce from GreenLeaf and all-natural, free-range, and meats free of antibiotics and growth hormones.
Entrees such as ginger soy vegetarian stir fry, cola carnitas, crimini brochette and osso buco of pork catch the eye of menu browsers.
Tsui and Hsiao got their first taste of the food business in college, when late-night, inebriated hunger pangs led them to start Pho Me Now, an instant success delivering Vietnamese food. Upon graduation they combined all their financial resources to add Munchy Munchy Hippos, burritos and eventually an online food court.
"We continued for 3½ years, doing well and making money but we realized that essentially we were selling junk food to children," Tsui said. "We felt really bad because we understand how important good nutrition is. We needed to come up with something that was healthy, fast and cheap."
SpoonRocket, a new model of delivery service, allows them to do it all.
The co-founders determined that by having prepared food already in delivery vehicles and using smartphone technology, the model would work.
They took their idea to Y Combinator, an online seed-funding site that accepted them into its "summer camp for entrepreneurs" and gave them startup money to develop their technology.
"A core part of our business is our logistic technology, which we designed ourselves; it's the software that binds the whole model together," Tsui said. "When a customer places an order it pops up in the nearest delivery vehicle on an iPad. The driver hits go and the customer gets notification that the order is on the way and to come outside to receive it."
SpoonRocket has grown so fast that its original two vehicles have grown to nine, all outfitted with heating units, eliminating the time necessary for round-trips every time someone places an order.
Since its start in June, when one meal was sold on the first day, SpoonRocket is now pushing 850 a day.
"Now we know that people want this product," Tsui said. "There are a lot of repeat customers. Students order from us, families and young working professionals."
A surprising demographic is senior citizens, who the co-founders have helped by setting up workshops to teach them how to order online and developing a special automated phone ordering system for the non-computer-savvy.
The mission of the company is to change the way people think about fast food; to change the world, starting with Berkeley and Emeryville for now and eventually looking to expand around the Bay Area, California and parts east.
There is also a goal of making healthy meals available to all, even people without a lot of money. To that end SpoonRocket has formed a partnership with World Food Program USA, donating the cost of one nutritious meal to a child in need with every meal purchased.
Right now, there's still a bit of magic in the air as customers are wowed by the rocket-speed of deliveries, disbelieving that a meal can arrive within minutes of placing an order.
Tsui and Hsiao are a bit wowed themselves. "This experience is amazing. What's exciting to us is that we've invented a new way of bringing food to people," Tsui said. "We're working on building the best real-time delivery logistics engine that could have many other applications. We're not just selling food, we're a technology company."
SpoonRocket is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. seven days a week. Their website is at www.spoonrocket.com.