Maple: A Restaurant without a Restaurant

Maple is a new concept in Manhattan backed by David Chang (of Momofuku fame). Don’t try to call to get a reservation though, because it’s delivery only.

Current food delivery experience


Before analyzing Maple, I think it’s instructive to first take a step back and examine the model of a brick and mortar restaurant. One would typically think that the business model of a restaurant is to sell food and drink, but in reality, they offer many other things, including entertainment, service, and a place to socialize. With the introduction of delivery services such as Seamless and DoorDash, brick and mortar restaurants have started delivering food, but the customer experience isn’t always positive (cold food, slow delivery times, etc.). (Source 5)


In comes Maple


Maple is a kitchen that delivers lunch and dinner ($12 and $15, respectively) to customers in under 30 minutes (Sources 1 & 2). Maple’s business model is selling food and their operating model is tightly aligned – selling quality food for a low price with fast delivery times.


Existing restaurants aren’t optimized to offer a quality delivery experience


It all starts with the business model – Maple realized that most restaurants actually have the business model of selling an experience, which includes food, service and atmosphere (Source 4). The delivery customer pays for all of this (via the menu price), but actually only receives the food, which is also likely worse than in-restaurant if it doesn’t travel well or has delivery delays (Source 5). After enduring four years in finance and eating hundreds of delivery meals, I can certainly attest to the poor quality of this dining experience (Source 5).


Maple has strong alignment between its business model and operating model


Maple’s business model is selling and delivering food to your door. Maple’s operating model closely aligns with this business model from when the order is placed through to when the food is delivered. It all starts with the order – a key decision for any takeout eater. Unlike the confusing myriad of choices via Seamless, Maple has a very simple menu – drinks and a handful of carefully crafted meals, influenced by top chefs (Source 1). Maple includes photos and all ingredients, so customers know what they’re getting and can adjust for any allergies (Source 1). Meals are priced consistently and comprehensively – $12 for lunch and $15 for dinner ALL IN – no more tip + tax + delivery fee, which can inflate the price of a delivery meal by 20-100%+ (Source 1, 5). This allows the customer to know exactly how much it will cost ahead of time, which makes budgeting, etc. very easy. After the customer orders his or her meal, Maple’s commissary kitchen gets to work (Source 2). The kitchen is optimized to produce meals that are quick and travel well (Source 2). Delivery people bring the food (via bike or foot) to the customer based on Maple’s technology, which “maps out the fastest route, factoring in things like traffic and even the time it takes to get to a sixth floor walk-up” (Source 2). The food reaches the customer within 30 minutes, which is much faster than typical delivery times of 30-60 minutes (Source 2, 5). Maple’s operating model of easy search, quality food, lower prices and quick delivery ties very well with its business model and this alignment should allow it to gain market share as it competes against traditional brick and mortar restaurants supplemented by an on-demand delivery service. Maple launched in April 2015 and is off to a good start, but only time will tell if this strategy pays off (Source 2). (Sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)




  5. Personal experience




Revolution Foods. Transforming the way America eats.


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Student comments on Maple: A Restaurant without a Restaurant

  1. Interesting pick! Your analysis of breaking down a traditional dinning experiences, and pointing out Maple’s focus on food quality, low cost, and fast delivery is insightful and concise. I think it’s a very nice case where the operating model was specifically designed to support the business model. Limited menu options allow the food to be prepared in advance to accelerate the turnaround time. Having its map technology to ensure on-time delivery is also impressive. My questions would be how does maple deal with fluctuating demand, and varying distance of the order locations to ensure consistency in the timeliness of the service. Do they stop taking orders once capacity is maxed out or limit the order taking to a certain area around the kitchen?

    1. CY – Thanks for your comments. From what I’ve read, it’s unclear how they deal with fluctuations in demand. I would assume they’re currently overstaffing the operation so they can offer the best quality and service for customers.

  2. Interesting article! Aside from high food quality, the efficiency and scalability of the delivery process is a critical element of the operating model. Does Maple manage its own delivery process or outsource to a third party delivery company? What happens if an order exceeds the 30 minute delivery promise? Given that delivery people walk or utilize bikes rather than cars, does Maple have multiple kitchens spread out throughout Manhattan to ensure the service is accessible to a large volume of customers?

  3. I would love for this to come to the food desert that is HBS. What challenges arise when expanding to new cities? I’ve used similar services in San Francisco, such as Sprig and Spoonrocket. Does it make sense for any of these companies to have a national presence? What will it take to win in the long run?

  4. As someone who has also ordered in a number of delivery meals at the office, Maple’s value proposition is incredibly salient to me. In my mind, the $12-15 all-in price is the most important aspect of the operating model, as it simplifies the customer experience and rids the process of hidden costs. Also interesting, and I think unique compared to other food delivery services, is the fact that Maple leverages technology to identify the quick delivery routes. Based on my experiences with other services and the frequent delivery delays I don’t think there is any way that competitors try to optimize routes. After exploring the website, my only question is how Maple will respond to challenges as it expands its service. Currently, it only delivers to locations in Manhattan south of 14th Street. This is not that large of a delivery range, and it seems like there could be a number of potential issues, particularly related to delivery route optimization and the 30 minute delivery guarantee, as Maple expands in size.

  5. Devon – Interesting post. I think Maple is a really interesting idea, and actually have a friend who has worked there.

    One thing I’ve wondered is how scalable the concept is. To me, the biggest risk is what happens if demand is to grow faster than supply. This isn’t the type of business that can deal with a back log, particularly given that part of their value proposition is the 30 minute delivery guarantee. I imagine that Maple is constrained by their kitchen size and staff, so should demand grow faster than the business is able to scale, they could lose credibility fast. Furthermore, this business will only be able to serve a growing consumer base as fast as they can pick up retail in Manhattan. Once they’re at capacity at a given store, the only next step is for them to open a new physical unit in one of the US’s most expensive cities.

    Do you think Maple is a feasible concept outside of Manhattan? What do you imagine their growth proposition will be after NYC?

  6. I love this idea. A truly disruptive concept in the food industry. I really like how you pointed out the value proposition in the traditional restaurant experience and how that is embedded in today’s pricing model for meals, which results in delivery customers footing a bill that they have no business paying for. The 30 minute window seems a little short, and potentially much more conservative than the current “Willingness to Pay” in time. However I imagine that the time challenge has helped in really pushing their operations, in this case the preparation of food, to make them as efficient as possible. I do see logistical issues in scaling this up to capture the potential market. However with those issues come interesting opportunities to innovate (drone delivery technology? self-driving food trucks – cook on the way?) in their operating model to capture that value. Agreed, would love to see one of these in Boston!

  7. I love Maple and used it a lot when living downtown – it is great food that changes every day and cheap and the delivery time is always excellent. I do wonder though if it is a sustainable business model if they expand. With their kitchen in Brooklyn they only service lower Manhattan – if they keep growing I wonder if they will be able to keep the same level of service and delivery time. Similarly, I wonder if they will be able to be profitable given that additional kitchens and CAPEX expenditures they will have to make.

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