Maple, the David Chang-backed delivery service that planned to revolutionize home food delivery, has ceased operations after two years in business. The service sent word to customers this afternoon that they were closing down citing "many challenges to overcome."
Founders Caleb Merkl and Akshay Navle sought to reinvent the delivery wheel by cutting out restaurants all together and creating their own travel-friendly meals from a special kitchen. The service was positively received, but the founders said that over time "the more evident it became that of all the paths we had contemplated, the most compelling next step in Maple's story involved a shift from our current approach."
Some employees will move on to London-based Deliveroo and Maple's proprietary technology "will be used to help accelerate growth and efficiency across the platform."
While that's the official line from the founders, Quartz reported that the company has been in trouble financially, including a possible debt of $10 million and a record of falling sales in the past year.
— Joe Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) May 8, 2017
Financial problems appear to stem from well-intentioned roots. Food costs soared to 63% of gross revenue in 2015, according to Recode, thanks in large part to the company's commitment to only buying antibiotic-free meats and sustainable products. Plus, nearly half of the price of each meal went towards labor costs, specifically offering its employees living wages and health benefits, a rarity for delivery personnel and restaurant workers generally.
And then there's the Chang angle. Last year he launched Ando, an equivalent delivery-only service offering Momofuku-type dishes—sometimes even including a free cookie. Ando has since expanded operations through more of Manhattan with the power of the Momofuku brand and Chang's popularity in food-obsessed communities behind it. Perhaps a few cheesesteak and fried chicken offerings could've helped Maple, too.