The billionaire founder of ecommerce pioneer Jet.com has set his sights on revolutionizing an old industry that he says needs new thinking: food delivery.
Marc Lore wants someone in Dallas or Omaha — or New York or LA — to be able to use his new Wonder app to call up a favorite dish from a big-city restaurant and have it delivered to their door — from one of his trucks kitted out with a chef and an oven.
He’s secured the rights to the menus of top chefs like Bobby Flay and sushi dynamo Daisuke Nakazawa and has plans to open “ghost kitchens” all over the country where his army of trucks will pick up partly-cooked meals that will eventually be finished at the curb or in a driveway.
It works like this: A person using the Wonder app scrolls what’s available in their neighborhood from the list of big-name chefs Lore has signed. The customer picks an item — say Steak Diane — that’s earlier been prepared and partially cooked at a satellite kitchen nearby. Then one of Lore’s kitchen-equipped trucks in the area gets a ping with the order and a chef on board finishes cooking the steak before it’s delivered to the person’s door.
“It isn’t like we are doing a deal with the restaurants,” Lore said of places like Bobby Flay Steaks. “We are buying the exclusive right to the menu and the name.”
He said Wonder makes a “big payment up front” and then secures exclusive, perpetual rights to cook the food just as it is in the chef’s restaurant. The chefs also get equity in the company, he said.
It’s a few clicks different from ordering from Uber Eats or Seamless because the order is cooked just outside the customer’s door — and it’ll also offer a wider selection than just the neighborhood pizza parlor or Chinese take-out. It’ll allow people in Everytown, USA to have access to their favorite big-city food.
He said the central kitchens mean buying power that allows “vertical integration,” with the end result being a higher-quality and more reasonably-priced dish than a sole restaurant can deliver.
So far, people spend around $65 per order to feed four or five people, he says.
Other big-name chefs, including Marcus Samuelsson, Nancy Silverton and Jonathan Waxman, have signed on. Lore, who’s CEO of the Wonder Group and also is part owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Alex Rodriguez, wouldn’t disclose the financial terms of the deals with the chefs.
“When the Wonder chefs recreated my pizza, I said, ‘Was this really made in the mobile kitchen?’ Silverton said of her California-based Pizzeria Mozza recipe. “I couldn’t believe they could get the same flavor. It was incredible.”
Flay agreed: “They figured out how to emulate exactly what I do,” he said.
Already, 60 trucks are plying the streets of a few New Jersey neighborhoods, proving that the service can work: The service has been in “stealth mode” for three years, but Lore says he plans to expand to 1,200 trucks by next year, when parts of Westchester County, Connecticut and New York City will come online — and eventually there could be three times that amount across the country by the end of 2023, he said.
Lore, the founder of Jet.com — which sold for $3.3 billion to Walmart in 2016 — said he identified the need for a better food-delivery concept before the pandemic supercharged the “amplified and accelerated” the need for a new take on that corner of the industry.
So far, he’s raised $500 million in venture capital from partners including NEA, Accel, GV, General Catalyst and Bain Capital Ventures.
Flay was one of the first top chefs to sign on. “He is an incredibly well-recognized and talented chef and he was one of the first to get the idea early on and jump on board,” Lore said. “Bobby’s a visionary type chef who saw the big picture very early.”
In the suburbs, the mobile trucks will be staffed by a single person to drive, prep the meals and deliver them.
“A single driver does the cooking. The technology is very straightforward. There is no open flame. All they have to do is press buttons for the convection ovens. The cooks are pressing buttons, not flipping burgers,” Lore explained.
In big cities, the trucks will be staffed by three people: a driver, a person to prep the meals and a runner to deliver them — and they will still be more profitable than the trucks in the ‘burbs because of the number of people squashed into each square mile of an urban area.
“I live in New York City, where food delivery is often cold, expensive and never on time,” Lore said. “I started thinking about food delivery in a different way and what 2.0 looks like.”