April 18, 2024

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Marc Lore is trying to build an Amazon for food delivery

Marc Lore is trying to build an Amazon for food delivery

One of the many things to figure out about Wonder is how to describe what it is to customers. The business does not fit well into the current food service category. “Delivery company” just refers to an app and delivery network, like Uber Eats or Grubhub, but Wonder makes all of its food itself in its own kitchens, too. “Ghost kitchen” and “virtual restaurant” describe brands that only exist as a menu on an app, with no street-level commercial presence; Wonder has designed beautiful locations where customers can order, pick up, and, at least in theory, eat at a few tables. Recently, the company's seven-person in-house creative team came together around the tagline “A New Kind of Food Hall.”

“I think this gets to the diversity aspect,” said Daniel Schlossman, who is leaving his position as Sweetgreen's chief marketing officer to join Wonder's senior leadership team in 2023. But he also said: “We're talking about it as a 'superfood app.'” A description that sums up Mr. Lore's ambition for Wonder's app to sell and deliver not just food from its own kitchens, but food from other restaurants as well, as well as meal kits, and even Grocery. (Wonder's offers are not available through other delivery apps, which means customers will have to have enough of its food to find it.)

However, Wonder's main focus today is creating and operating its own restaurants. Their kitchens do not require gas stoves and exhaust systems to vent cooking fumes, making construction cheaper and faster. Everything on Wonder's menu is designed to be cooked using three pieces of electrical equipment: a hot water bath, a quick-cooking oven, and a frying pan.

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During a visit to Parsippany in January, Mr. Schlossman took me to see the Wonder R&D Center, a series of gleaming test kitchens staffed by dozens of professional chefs wearing Wonder's trademark white chef's uniforms.

Wonder prepares, and in many cases, partially cooks, all of its menu items in its large complex facilities, then distributes the individually portioned dishes to its restaurants, where employees can finish preparation within minutes, with little culinary skill required. This allows restaurants to employ what Mr. Lore calls “lightly trained workers.”