Overnight Shipping of Meals

by Mr. Cheap

Often a big part of home is the food you eat.  I’ve read that people from Thailand often don’t do well when they move to another country, in part because food is such an important part of Thai life and they really miss it.  Pad Thai is one of my favourite meals, so I can understand that you’d miss Thai food if you grew up on it (I miss it if I haven’t had it in a while, and I was well into my 20’s the first time I tried it).  It’s almost a cliché that many first year university students will be homesick, missing something that their mother would regularly make.

Years ago a friend of mine was really missing a dish that her mother made.  She mentioned this on the phone one time, and her mother said she was going to make a tray of it and send it overnight through FedEx.  Of course, the parcel got delayed and arrived 7 days later (and was inedible and pretty nasty once it was opened).

The basic idea for this wacky business idea is to provide worldwide express shipping for food (prepared dishes).  The target customer will be someone who wants to get a special meal to a loved one (this isn’t for standard catering) and is willing to pay a large premium to get the dish there.

When the food is shipped, the sender will have to provide details on what it is, and agree to a method of packaging (with options for keeping it at specific conditions, such as below freezing or vacuum sealed, during the trip).  There could be an optional add-on where the food would be delivered at a precise location at a precise time and would have some final preparation (such as heating) performed en route.  The sender and receiver would have to take full responsibility for spoiled food (since nothing would prevent someone from sending something that was already spoiled), but every reasonable precaution would be taken to prevent this from happening.

FedEx does do specialty shipping, but since this includes things like hazardous materials I suspect it’s VERY expensive.  This seems to imply that they have the facilities to do this, and perhaps a company could be set up re-selling their services (after getting a big discount based on the volume your business will do as a whole).  Dealing with the customers would be one of the biggest challenges (every shipment will be quite unique), which might be a reason why FedEx doesn’t get into this line of shipping (and someone specializing in it might be able to make it work).  Purolator also ships food, but they don’t offer a service guarantee, which is part of the value proposition of this business.

Obviously this isn’t something you’d use regularly (only the very wealthy would send their kids every Sunday dinner through this service), but this would be for the odd time when it’s worth paying more than a decent restaurant meal to have a taste of home.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com

You could always just send the recipe to the lazy ass. :)

2 Jess

Woah I’m the first one to post!? lol.. I think that’s a brilliant idea. In fact, a friend of mine were planning to do that back in 2007 but went to Gift Card business instead. The twist is, you can call one number and you can order any fast food and deliver it to your door but it will only be in Greater Toronto Area only. Almost a similar idea.

3 Mr. Cheap

Preet: Aw, come on. You know it just isn’t the same if someone else makes Moma Banerjee’s famous meatballs! ;-)

Jess: How did your friends’ gift card business work out?

4 Four Pillars

Jess, the fast food delivery site has been done. GrubCanada.com – they were on Dragon’s Den last week. It’s a great idea but it needs a lot of money to make any inroads.

5 Mr. Cheap

Sorry, just in case I wasn’t clear, with this post I was talking about long distance shipping (parents in Vancouver send a lasagna to their son studying at the University of Toronto), not an in-town courier service. I also was talking about shipping food between private individuals, not a delivery service for stores / restaurants.

6 Jess Valenzuela

@Fourpillars,
Maybe they were my friends! lol.. the name is similar to the gift card they’ve started.

@MrCheap,
They are doing pretty well and they’ve expanded. Their website is http://grabgiftcard.com almost similar to GrubCanada.com. That’s why they are probably my friends and I’ll ask. I haven’t talk to them for a long time now.

Personally, I like to sell Intangible, things you can’t touch. My latest project is VOIP. Check out http://freephoneline.ca and This is why Rogers are laying off 900 employees! Competition is harsh for next year. I’ll try to make everything Free as posible.

7 Kathryn

This idea has some huge potential if they tapped into the right markets.

* parents wanting to send their university age kids a favourite home cooked meal (perhaps someone could have a laundry courier service going the other way too)

* sending an out of town new mom a home cooked meal

* Grandma sending her famous brownies to the out of province grandkids .. I can see the commercial now, grandkids opening the parcel and the Grandma’s brownies are still warm!

* sending a sick friend or family member some fresh home baked bread and home made chicken soup

* sending someone a home cooked meal after a death in the family

If they marketed it towards the care and nurturing crowd (think parents, girlfriends and grandparents) they may have some huge potential with this.

P.S. Pad Thai is my favourite meal too. I’ve got a pretty good recipe for it. I could send you some in the mail.

I’m thinking it also has some huge potential in the artisan cheese industry which seems to be expanding rapidly in Canada. Really, who wouldn’t love some artisan goats cheese with your Mom’s homemade french bread?

8 Stuart

If it doesn’t sound crazy and unmanageable then someone has already done it. This is how progress happens. Keep dreaming, but make sure someone is there to act on crazy ideas or else you’re just spinning the wheels.

9 Shevy

I heard a couple of years ago that it was possible to get kosher pizza FedExed from NYC to wherever but I’ve never tried it. Considering that a regular frozen kosher pizza is $20 (in Vancouver, wonder what it is in TO) I think it was only about twice the usual cost.

10 Gates VP

Hey Cheap;

I can see where you’re going, but I think that you’re approaching the problem from the wrong direction.

Most major North American cities already have “supply lines” for the ingredients and likely have local food preparers. If I want my kid to have pad thai, I can just order it in from a local joint and arrange for the shipping.

If I’m a long distance away, it’s way easier and cheaper to e-mail the recipe to a local chef and have them complete / ship the meal. If local chefs are too expensive, go with a local cooking school. They need the money and the practice.

If anything, I’d flip it around and focus on making top-notch custom food delivery. Organize and vet local chefs. Build a truck or two with stabilizers for prepared food and built-in hot plates.

11 Sam

I was actually starting something like this, and I will. I got a few months off of school. My mother has been sending me food this whole year. I get a shipment every monday filled with goodies.

12 Mr. Cheap

Sam: Come back and leave a link to your website when you open for business. Best of luck!

13 Sam

Most definitely.

14 Rick

Mr. Cheap can you outline the actual steps to start that as a working franchise? I am very interested in this. I live in Los Angeles and I think there is a need, esp around the holidays for this.

Also what if you contacted local restaurants directly and offered to overnight ship meals to fans around the world, sort of like a contracted made to order option.

Let me know…thanks

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