It seems like every day there's a new food delivery service launch, each seeking to connect a large and growing number of hungry customers with high-quality meal choices. While the way each tries to approach the market and handle demand differs, it's clear that there's huge interest in revolutionizing the way that food is sourced and delivered. So anyway, here comes Sprig, yet another food delivery service with an interesting new approach to the market. With its own executive chef and delivery team, the service officially launched in some select neighborhoods of San Francisco earlier this week, seeking to make available a few interesting meal choices each night for about $12 each. How Sprig Is Different There are a few different ways to approach food delivery. Some companies are positioning themselves to handle delivery and logistics, and work with existing restaurants to improve the order and delivery experience. That includes incumbent food delivery services like Seamless and Grubhub, as well as newer startups like Postmates and Zesty. Meanwhile, others are seeking to produce and deliver the food themselves, which they believe can increase the quality of what's available, while lowering costs all around. Companies in this group include startups like Y Combinator alum SpoonRocket and Munchery, which works with in-house chefs and "chef partners" to come up with meals for delivery. For the most part, they offer a limited, curated selection which changes daily. Sprig falls into that latter category of food delivery services, giving customers a choice of three different meal choices for delivery. Meals cost $12 each (plus a $3 delivery fee) and generally include one entree selection and a couple of sides. Sprig users make purchases via mobile app, which stores their location and payment information, and food is delivered within about 15 minutes. So, Um, How's The Food? Ok, so it's one thing to announce that there's a new food delivery service, but I wanted to try it out myself so I could let all of you know what to actually expect. So here goes. I ordered all three available meal options on Monday night, which happened to be the first night of Sprig's "soft opening" in San Francisco. There was one beef dish, one pork dish, and one vegetarian dish, each of which came with a couple of interesting sides. And I shared with a friend, to see what she thought as well. Dishes were as follows: Pork tenderloin brined and grilled, topped with an apple fennel compote. Served with roasted maple garnet yams and Rodoni Farms brussel sprouts with sweet onions. Coleman natural beef tri-tip rubbed with herbs and spices and cooked sous vide. Presented atop black-eyed peas and River Dog Farms collard greens. Cabbage dumplings stuffed with wheat berries, Coke Farms radichio, and Sonoma dry jack cheese. Accompanied by roasted Frazier Lake butternut squash and red beans and rice. All of the meals were hot when delivered, but not soggy or overcooked, as sometimes happens when you get delivery. Presentation wasn't bad, considering meals were delivered, and overall the food was better than you might expect from usual delivery options. But there were definitely some highlights to the meal, and some things we weren't thrilled with. Far and away, the pork tenderloin was our favorite part of the meal, and the apple fennel compote went perfectly with it. The yams and Brussels sprouts were also paired well, and weren't overdone, as one might expect. We also liked the tri-tip, but the best part of that meal was the spicy collard greens that came with it. My friend thought that, while ok, the amount of black-eyed peas was a little overwhelming -- she would have preferred more greens instead. Which brings us to the vegetarian offering, the cabbage dumplings. We were both disappointed in the dumplings, which was a shame, especially since it was the only veg-friendly option. Butternut squash and red beans and rice were also both ok, but nothing to fawn over. Some other notes: The lightweight wooden "cutlery" that came with our meal is compostable and great for the environment, but not so great for slicing up tri-tip. We had one fork just completely break on us in the process. We weren't in love with the bonus dessert truffle that came with the meals. Instead, my friend suggested that Sprig add actual optional dessert options to go with them -- cookies, cake, or something similar. While the dishes were labeled with pig, cow, or vegetables on the top of the container to quickly show what each was, we would have liked to see a more detailed description of each meal, and maybe a nutritional information breakdown alongside it. All in all, not bad for the opening night of the service. (At 6:00, we placed the first order of the service's soft opening.) But it could have been improved, and hopefully will be with time. Founders, Investors, And Advisors Sprig was co-founded by Gagan Biyani, who had been on the founding team of online education startup Udemy, and had also worked as an advisor to Lyft during its expansion into the Los Angeles market. (Disclosure: Once upon a time, Biyani was part of the TechCrunch family as a contributor to MobileCrunch.) The startup's executive chef is Nate Keller, who was previosuly executive chef at Google during its growth from 400 to about 40,000 employees. Other co-founders include Neeraj Berry, who runs ops; product lead Morgan Springer; and engineering lead Matt Kent. To help get it off the ground, Sprig has raised $1.2 million in seed funding. Investors in the round include Battery Ventures’ Brian O’Malley, Greylock Partners’ Simon Rothman, Andrew McCollum, Larry Braitman, Haroon Mokhtarzada, Darian Shirazi, MHS Capital, Jim Payne, Dan Martell, Andrew Garvin, and Pascal Levy-Garboua. In addition to its investors, Sprig is also receiving help from some big-name folks in the restaurant and logistics world. Advisors to the startup include three-star Michelin chef Kyle Connaughton, Lyft co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer, Google's first executive chef Charlie Ayers, AF&Co founder Andrew Freeman, and World Wrapps and Pacific Catch restaurant co-founder Aaron Novesheen. The company is operating under what it calls a "soft opening" -- which means that it's available during limited hours (6:00 pm to 9:00 pm) and in just a few neighborhoods in San Francisco. For now, Sprig is serving SOMA and Mission Bay (zip codes 94107, 94103, 94105 and 94158), but plans to be available more broadly throughout the city by early 2014.
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