By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
“You’re the epitome of laziness.” “A life of leisure and laziness are two very different things.” “Some day, when I’m dead, you will wish you could get off your lazy bottom and do what I’m asking?”
Did you hear any of these phrases growing up?
If you did, you might feel guilty about many of the services Mexico — and especially Mexico City, because of its size — has for its residents. Who would have thought the capital would have such a wide variety of food prep services?
While everyone is familiar with the restaurant delivery service apps like Uber Eats and Didi Food, whose prices can make a hefty dent into a monthly budget, the food prep services are different, and actually quite economical.
As we have gotten used to doing everything online because the covid-19 pandemic, including grocery shopping, it seems only natural, that food prep is the next logical step in our path to stay-at-hone-in-your-pajamas laziness. These services deliver full meals to your door and your only task, knowing you are committing a capital vice on a slow path to sloth by using them, is heating up the food.
There are about seven food prep services in the Mexico City metro area. I have not tried them all, but I have tried a few.
The ones I have tried have easy-to-use apps, seamless payment options and impeccable delivery services. They are as easy as getting something from Amazon.
Again, those of us who grew up with the TV dinner concept have grave reservations as those concoctions had three or four elements, all cooked for the same amount of time and at the same temperature. In short, TV dinners were an experiment that failed badly.
Today’s food prep services all seem to revolve around the common themes of nutrition and ease, but they subsequently market to a few tighter niches.
Some promote to weight loss with well-balanced portion sizing. Others promote saying goodbye to the tedious cutting of vegetables and searching for odd condiments as a time-saver already done for you. Others promote items you would order in a restaurant, but likely not prepare at home because they are complicated. Some promote foods for those who are training athletically. And still others have corporate discounts with certain employers so you can have your food delivered to your workplace, enjoying a hot and healthy meal without the need for a corporate cafeteria.
I have often thought the same service could market to four or five different audiences with four or five very different apps. It is definitely about the marketing.
It seems crazy that services like the above would even exist in Mexico City. But I am guessing that because of its size as the fifth-largest city in the world, there is a market basically for everything — if you can discover it and promote it. I really cannot imagine a typical “Chilango” family subscribing to a food prep service. The wrath alone from grandma would be enough to never admit to trying them.
I will limit myself to sharing some info about two of these services.
There are three or four which are identical to foodin.mx. The food comes in a two-sided, microwavable plastic container with a main and side. It arrives fresh, which many people appreciate, and you refrigerate until it is time to microwave or heat on your oven and serve.
The company’s marketing technique is interesting. Your order will repeat weekly unless you vary or suspend it. You can order four, six, eight or 12 meals a week. As long as you adjust before the Tuesday deadline, you literally have to do nothing. You can even select your weekly delivery day.
Another interesting concept is comebien.mx. This company’s items are not meals, but mix-and-match entrées and side dishes. The entrees come in single (250 gram) and double (500 gram) portions. They also have lots of protein drinks. These items arrive a day after you order them and are frozen. You simply insert the plastic bag into boiling water and after eight minutes, your meal is ready. This food generally has surprisingly good taste.
Prices for these services are not significantly higher than a budget sit-down restaurant or even buying all the ingredients and cooking at home. Add into the equation the time and cost of going to a physical store or market, all of the cutting and prep, coupled with the time needed to cook your food, these services may be on to something.
They may just be much less expensive, from 70 to 90 pesos, then a sit-down restaurant. And depending on how you value your time, the savings could be significant .
What I have not found yet in Mexico are family food prep services. That might be the next frontier.
Imagine the luxury of defrosting the evening before, and leaving a meal in a crock pot to actually cook a main course for a family of four to six. To me, that would be the next generation of food prep, with a guaranteed market in Mexico’s busy middle-class families.
Where TV dinners failed, the food-prep industry is geared to exponentially expand as more and more families see the cost versus time ratio as something they cannot justify with a traditional mindset.