Online food delivery services have exploded in the last couple of years, creating a billion-dollar industry. And, as in every industry that grows exponentially, there are always the pioneers. Magic Kitchen is one of them and has been operating since 2005. In order to find out the secret behind its success, we caught up with CEO Greg Miller.
We started a little bit before our time, so we kind of pioneered the idea of prepared meals being delivered to homes. We launched in 2005 and found at that time people were not so accustomed to ordering online, or on the phone, and having food delivered to their home, unless it was pizza or Chinese food from the local takeout.
My father suffered from a heart problem, and most of the delivery food available was high in sodium or bad for his diet. So, we became motivated to put together healthy meals that people like him could eat in their homes.
We didn’t see much competition until around 2014. At that time, a lot of people were putting together meal kit services – this was both good and bad for us.
The good part was, they educated the market that meals could be ordered and delivered to homes. But the older generation would often get kits and not have the energy to put the meals together. In our case, all they had to do was take the food out of the refrigerator and put it in the oven or microwave.
Our target customers are people over 45, or those following special diets, whereas the meal kit companies are looking for millennials. That’s the main difference.
The bad side was, in terms of trying to get paid per-click advertising done, the cost almost doubled what we were paying before those organizations existed.
We’ve always had growth. When we first started our business, we were seeing 30% to 40% quarterly growth. That happened for seven or eight years. The meal kit companies actually grew faster than that for a good period of time. As I said, it was just the cost of doing business that was more expensive. Their arrival made things more complicated but did not slow things down.
For those people who don’t have special diets, the à la carte menu has done really well. We’ve got a great new Magic Skillet product – and it’s an interesting process. The kitchens create the meals, like Beef Stroganoff or Lemon Risotto, and they flash-freeze them to lock in the flavor.
When you take it out of the freezer and put it into a frying pan, it takes about eight or 10 minutes to cook. You can get a risotto in seven minutes – that’s unheard of!
We also have some sous vide products – that took a while for people to understand. The kitchen simply vacuum-seals the meal and all the customer has to do is boil in the bag. When cooking beef, for instance, the result is so tender that you can split it with your fingers.
I’d say it is primarily 45 and older.
The younger audience is definitely harder to keep happy because they want variety all the time. We provide a significantly sized menu, but it needs to be sustainable. So, it stays mostly the same and seasonally we’ll change some of the items, revise recipes, or go for something different.
We work a lot with insurance companies – in certain Medicaid and Medicare plans, you can now have meals provided. Doctors can prescribe meals in the same way they prescribe drugs.
They send us the prescription, we fill it, and bill it to the insurance company. There are all kinds of diets out there and our menu has 230 items, so we present a lot of options for them to choose from.
We want to provide the best possible product in all areas of the business. For example, we have a line of pierogies (filled dumplings) that come out of Chicago – known as the best in the country.
We want to have around six to 10 different product lines like that, so you can place a single order, almost like an online shopping mall, and buy everything you want in one place. We think the ability to purchase products from many different places all from our website is one of the things our customers appreciate.
We are not a gourmet food company by any means. We refer to our products as home-style meals – those you’d have on a Sunday night when you have family and friends over. A nice, good-quality meal, nothing extravagant, but something people appreciate and remember for some time.