It’s been two years of relatively smooth sailing for FreshMint, Montreal’s only B2C food delivery service with its own kitchen and daily menu, says cofounder Dan Perel.
Since delivering its first meal in 2014, the company has expanded from preparing one meal a day to two plus desserts and a side soup or salad.
Last February, after requests from customers to start delivering breakfasts, lengthen its hours and expand its delivery zone, it launched Marché FreshMint, a service to re-stock office fridges daily with healthy snacks, drinks, and FreshMint’s meals.
“What we created was basically a smart vending machine,” Perel told MTLinTech.
Fridges are listed within the FreshMint mobile app and customers can add items to their fridge through a mobile checkout. They receive a QR code upon purchase and food is delivered and re-stocked daily. “It’s been super successful. Right now we have six fridges installed,” he said.
Meanwhile, the daily meal delivery service is growing. Perel says they sell an average of 350 meals a day, not including desserts and sides. About 90 per cent of his customers are individuals ordering from offices, which doesn’t step on the toes of caterers supplying company lunches and meetings.
Perel also insists that FreshMint doesn’t compete directly with Foodora or other delivery services. “Basically we own the entire experience, from the moment you order on our website. We take orders, we make our own food and we deliver our own food, which is very different. And we deliver in 15 minutes.”
Longstanding customer Heath Slawner agrees. “Foodora I think is a different model; they bring you food from established restaurants. With FreshMint, it’s their menu, their chef, their kitchen and their delivery guys. And if you’re in the neighbourhood, you can actually go to visit the kitchen since they’re open during the day.”
Like any business, there have been challenges. Scaling up and maintaining consistency with a daily changing menu, a growing kitchen staff and lots of recipes to learn is a challenge for any business in the food service industry. Add to that delivering food hot and on time all while limiting food costs and sourcing quality products and it’s no wonder FreshMint hit a bump.
“After six months we realized we can’t reinvent the wheel with a new menu every time,” says Perel. “So we started doing a seasonal rotating menu where you would have ten different options for two weeks and we’d repeat those, which ensures consistency.”
Customers don’t complain of menu boredom.
“They complain of other things,” he said. “Either the food arrives cold or the food is not good or it took too long to deliver. Nobody’s perfect. Even Dominos can take 45 minutes to deliver your pizza.”
In the rare case that something does go wrong, says Slawner, FreshMint fixes it right away. “They take responsibility and resolve it every time – no finger pointing, no pushback,” he says.
In terms of tech, Perel says there are a couple things he’d do differently. FreshMint started with an out-of-the-box e-commerce platform, but after shifting to a custom backend he doubts it was the best idea.
“We were super obsessed with building our own custom platform,” says Perel. “Obviously there are some advantages but today we ask ourselves whether those advantages really outweigh the cons. There are companies that invest millions into building out of the box software.”
And while some companies will perfect a new product before releasing, Perel is a firm believer in letting customers beta test for you. “We had tons of bugs. But sometimes it’s best to release it into the wild and see what happens, at least in our case.”
So far so good, but a major change for the company was when they stopped emailing the weekly menu in advance. “We went through this period of growth where we went from one meal to two and then from two meals to two meals and desserts, he says. “So it was really hard for us to publish a weekly menu. Let’s say we had to change something, then the people who were waiting all week for the Portuguese chicken were disappointed.”
Not that all Hell would break loose otherwise, but missing the piri piri baked chicken – a bestseller and Perel’s personal favourite – could be heartbreaking.
Top PHOTO by PierreBPhoto.com