If the customer truly is king, don’t bother to become a chef
A new delivery app in Russia allows restaurant customers to order anything they fancy, and expect it to be cooked for them in the eatery they’re in, even if it’s not on the menu. Put that in your pipe and smoke it at your next dinner party.
Bloomberg’s Ilya Khrennikov reports that Russia’s largest tech company is launching a delivery service that allows a customer to tell a restaurant what to cook, whether it’s on the menu or not.
Yandex NV will prepare meal kits with ingredients based on a customer’s requested dish and send it to a nearby restaurant for cooking. Once the food is ready, Yandex couriers will handle delivery.
Yandex has been rapidly expanding its delivery services. In 2017 it merged with Uber Technologies’s Russian ride-hailing and food-ordering businesses. The new offering, which it calls a “cloud restaurant” service, mashes together Yandex.Eats, which delivers cooked food from restaurants, and Yandex.Chef, which already supplies meal kits for home cooking.
“Restaurants can expand their menu without additional expenses on food, marketing and delivery,” Yandex said in a statement, adding that customers will be able to order favourite meals “even if nearby restaurants aren’t specialised in it”.
Trust me: this is not going to go down well with any chef with a proud heart and a strong belief in her or his abilities as a creative chef. I dare you go to your favourite steakhouse, the one where they serve magnificent grain-fed beef matured just so and cooked to pinkly perfect deliciousness, and say, “Oh, don’t worry, I’ve ordered kingklip and chips on my app, they’ll be delivering the ingredients to the chef in five minutes. In the meantime, could I see the wine list please?”
A self-respecting chef will have none of this. Because, for many chefs, it’s their craft, not just their job or something they’re vaguely good at. You have your own way with food, based on your life and your palate. You’ve had this dream to open your own place one day, and when you’ve got there, you’re in your kitchen office thinking, I have 20 fresh yellowtail coming in, and Johnny at the veg market sold me that lovely celeriac today. And that sirloin is just perfect right now, that must go on today’s menu; ah, and I bought those lovely porcini yesterday, I see a 300g sirloin with porcini cream, a hint of thyme, celeriac puree…”
To be interrupted by Annie the watron with, “Um… I don’t want to upset you, chef, but this parcel of ingredients just arrived for the annoying lady at Table 6. By the way, she didn’t tip me last time she was here. I’m just saying.”
I wouldn’t want to be Annie. Or the annoying couple at table six.
For now, Bloomberg continues, customers won’t be able to create completely bespoke delicacies, but Yandex has created a list of hundreds of the most popular dishes among users of its food businesses, which will be priced typically for no more than 250 rubles per dish. The service will be initially available in Moscow and St Petersburg.
Many food-delivery companies are trying to reinvent the restaurant business. In the UK, Uber Eats and market leader Deliveroo are also battling for so-called virtual restaurants, where eateries lease kitchen space to prepare food for couriers. With no dining rooms or waiters, these outfits pop up where food delivery companies expect demand, and sell their meals through Uber Eats or Deliveroo’s app.
“Pizza and sushi remain popular for online delivery in Russia, while burgers are declining from the peak of their popularity,” Daniil Shuleyko, who heads Yandex’s food and taxi businesses, said in an interview.
“Home-style and simple food is getting traction online – like borscht, meat cutlets with mashed potatoes and Hawaiian poke.
If restaurants are to be led by the customer, with the chef doing their bidding, instead of places where professionals of great talent and innovation invite you to dine at their table and be thrilled by their technique and innovation, a) God help us all and b) a restaurant will soon be a place best steered clear of. Bloomberg, with additional writing by Tony Jackman DM
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