Trend Spotlight: Al Desko and the Food-delivery Revolution

12 August, 2014

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Many have marvelled the “anything, anytime, anywhere” attitude of America’s food-delivery scene; Chinese, Greek or pancakes, chicken wings, organic pizzas or neighbourhood Italian, “take-out” is as much a part of American culture as baseball or going to the mall.

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Al desko: wraps and salads from Hiba Express and City Pantry

And London is catching on. Inspired by the city’s buzzing street-food scene, a key player in London’s food-delivery revolution is “online catering marketplace” City Pantry. Founded in January 2014, City Pantry creates appealing catering packages for clients and pride themselves on efficient usability – hungry customers can place an order in just 4 clicks.

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Al-desko baklava from Hummus Bros and City Pantry

With leading tech firms as clients, City Pantry packages prove popular, and are favoured by office managers who save themselves the task of having to painstakingly gather individual orders from each member of staff.

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Hummus with steak and chicken from Hummus Bros and City Pantry

City Pantry really has the personal touch – Charlotte Mindel, their resident food curator, scouts out the best food in town to serve to customers, including rotisserie chicken from Le Coq, pimped out hummus from Hummus Bros, hearty healthy salads from customer-favourite King’s Kitchen and dishes from ‘great restaurants, street-food vendors and pop-ups.’  ‘For us, it’s not just about ordering food to your office at all, it’s about the whole food experience and being inspired by it.’

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Fuelling the food-delivery revolution: Cha Cha Moon from Deliveroo

Proof of the food trend’s seriousness, key player in the food-delivery revolution Deliveroo has announced that it has secured £2.75 million of venture capitalist investment, which will enable it to expand its offering to the rest of the UK.

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Al desko done right: Greek dishes from 21 Bateman street and Deliveroo

Deliveroo’s identity is with its 10,000 vendors, most of which have an exceptional reputation of their own, and, unlike City Pantry and other food-delivery websites, Deliveroo do their own deliveries and also have a state-of-the-art tracking system which will undoubtedly be improved with their new funding.

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Mixed souvlaki from 21 Bateman Street and fresh Greek salad

Our favourites are from Egyptian/vegetarian hole-in-the-wall Koshari Street and souvlaki house 21 Bateman Street. The food offering at Koshari Street, created by Middle-Eastern food legend Anissa Helou, is simple but done exceptionally well; including hearty Koshari, Egypt’s national street-food dish made of vermicelli, rice and lentils and topped with a spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas and crispy onions, plus punchy herb-packed tabbouleh and vegetable crudités with brilliant hummus and a colourful and spritely flavoured beetroot dip. Smartly packaged and feels healthy but filling, Koshari Street is perfect al-desko dining.

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The food-delivery revolution: Greek salad in its packaging from 21 Bateman Street

21 Bateman Street, too, translates well with delivery: nicely seasoned lamb, chicken and pork souvlaki skewers, juicy wild-boar sausage, plenty of fluffy pitta and super-fresh chunkily cut Greek salad with great hunks of tangy feta cheese. Nothing about their food delivery is fridge-y – just balanced and fresh, another al-desko champion.

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An Al-desko favourite: beetroot dip from Koshari Street

The food-delivery revolution is growing, and will likely move beyond luxe al desko lunches to delivering to homes, as cities continue to grow and kitchen space and the desire to cook diminishes.

But not all food-delivery services are created equal – at present, customers must be savvy about the vendor they order from, as food becomes a different beast after delivery. We suggest staying away from warm salads – the leaves wilt and depress the dish. Also, portion size varies as does ordering structure: at City Pantry all orders are placed in advance and are usually for groups of 10 or more, while Deliveroo delivers within 30 minutes to feed as many or as few as you like.

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Koshari, crudites and dips: perfect al-desko food from Koshari Street

What we’d like to see? Vendors tailoring food-delivery options to ensure that the dishes travel well, and also incentivising purchase by creating something just a little bit special for the al-desko or at-home customer.

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