Billionaire food delivery disruptor Marc Lore has ditched his idea of using Mercedes trucks to cook up fine fare outside your door for a more traditional brick-and-mortar concept.
The Staten Island-born mogul jumped out of his SUV on the Upper West Side on Monday to give Side Dish a special sneak peek at the first of his Wonder food-delivery shops, which will open its doors Thursday.
Lore’s heady concept will deliver menu items from some of the world’s top chefs to the palates of finicky diners within six minutes, whether it’s a $49 filet mignon from Bobby Flay Steak or an $11.95 burger from Fred’s Meat and Bread.
At first, Lore wanted to accomplish this feat by tricking out a fleet of Mercedes trucks with high-end kitchens. The idea helped Wonder raise $900 million, putting the company’s value at $3.5 billion.
But the plan was costly and many neighbors didn’t like the mobile kitchens idling on their pristine blocks.
So Lore decided to pivot by opening Wonder’s first commissary at 2030 Broadway – a 3,668 Square-foot space that will make deliveries from W. 66th St. to W. 75th St., between Central Park West and Riverside Drive.
“This is Delivery 3.0. We thought the truck was a good way to do it but we found a better one,” Lore boasted. “The fixed location means better quality and better economics — a higher profit margin. There’s a better customer experience and an ability to order from more restaurants on the same check, which is what customers really wanted.”
Lore, a serial entrepreneur, founded diaper.com before selling it to Amazon for $545 million, and jet.com, which he sold to Walmart for $3.3 billion. But dealing with fine cuisine at fast-food speed was almost biting off more than he can chew.
The trucks are now being phased out and 400 people have been fired.
“Food is definitely more challenging than I thought it would be. There are so many more ways for things to go wrong,” Lore said. “In e-comm, you buy commodity products from a manufacturer, you bring them into a warehouse. Someone orders them. You put a label on it and give it to UPS or Fedex. You don’t have to deal with the quality of the product changing as often as when you source food or worry about it spoiling. You only have so many days to cook the food before it goes bad, and quality changes and peoples’ tastes are different. It’s not a commodity.”
As Wonder’s majority owner, Lore took back day-to-day operations as CEO in October. He plans to raise $250 million more, in addition to the $900 million he already raised, starting this summer.
He plans to add a second Manhattan outpost in Chelsea before expanding to Brooklyn, and the affluent suburban area like Hoboken and Ridgewood, N.J., and Westfield, Conn., he said.
Wonder also expects to hire 500 people to staff the additional eateries.
Top chefs that have signed on include Michael Symon, Marc Murphy and Jose Andres, who hold equity stakes in the company, according to a spokesman.
The dishes included a samosa chaat from Chai Pani, shrimp tacos and churros from Barrio Cafe, chicken souvlaki from Chios Taverna and a pastrami sandwich from Tejas, a Texas bbq eatery, along with a meatball ricotta pizza from Di Fara.
Wonder invested “hundreds of millions of dollars” in culinary technology and food science to create convection ovens that reach 550 degrees and blast 50-mile-an-hour winds “at the push of a button” so that each dish comes out exactly the same every time, Lore said.
“When we started, we didn’t it know we could cook a Bobby Flay steak to perfect temp every time with the push of a button in five minutes and have it be the same quality that you would find in a restaurant — or a Nancy Silverton pizza to come out of the oven and taste like it is from a wood-fired oven,” Lore said.
“After years and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, we finally got to a place where the food quality matches or in some cases exceeds what you’d find in a restaurant for a fraction of labor in a much more consistent way because it is literally down to pushing a button on a high-speed, turbo chef convection oven. There is no microwave. We are actually cooking the food using the most advanced cooking techniques to be able to pull this off.”
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