Careers at Plated
Plated’s mission is to reconnect people with their food, one plate at a time.
Nick Taranto had had an interesting life. After earning a Bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College, he headed to Indonesia, where he spent a year overseeing a microfinance group. He then returned to America to attend Harvard Business School. After graduation, he joined the Marine Corps and completed a year of active duty. Following that, he took a position as a Private Wealth Advisor on Wall Street. He hated the experience, desiring a job that was more creative and entrepreneurial.
Taranto also disliked his career for another reason. Like many bankers, he worked around the clock and ate take-out all the time. Combined with limited time for exercise, this contributed to him gaining weight, which led to feelings of unhappiness. Taranto learned that his former Harvard classmate Josh Hix, an employee at investment firm Bridgewater Associates, also had bad eating habits. They decided there had to be a better way, and set a goal of helping others in the process.
The two spent four months developing the concept of a subscription dinner service. It would provide weekly menus with recipes (requiring less than 30 minutes of prep) designed by a professional chef. Consumers would select the recipe of interest, and would then be delivered a box with its ingredients, all fresh and locally-sourced. The goal was to give people the tools they needed to quickly prepare healthy gourmet meals. Called Plated, the service launched in 2012.
The startup immediately attracted funding. In 2013 it raised $1.4 million in seed capital. In 2014 it raised over $20 million, and in 2015 it obtained $35 million in a Series B round led by Greycroft Partners and Formation 8. The company soon became a huge success, and demand was so high that it was forced to move into a bigger fulfillment center 14 times. In June 2015 Taranto reported that Plated was averaging 500% annual revenue growth, and forecasted sales of $100 million that year.
Benefits at Plated
Business model of Plated
Plated has a niche market business model, with a specialized customer segment. The company targets its offering at consumers who desire the delivery of fresh ingredients for meal preparation. It describes its most passionate customers as “aspirational foodies” who live in dual-income households and have no children. In general, most are women between the ages of 25 and 35.
Plated offers four primary value propositions: accessibility, customization, convenience, and risk reduction.
The company creates accessibility by enabling consumers to receive ingredients they might have difficulty obtaining otherwise. These include 100% antibiotic-free meats, 100% sustainably-sourced and domestic seafood, beef with no added hormones, and produce that is seasonal and hand-packed. Moreover, it provides recipes for vegetarians. Plated also offers accessibility by making its offering widely available. It delivers to 96% of the U.S. (Alaska and Hawaii are not yet serviced).
The company enables customization by offering nine recipe choices weekly. It also allows customers to highlight their food preferences in a “taste profile.” This ensures that certain types of recipes will be excluded. Users can also specify format preferences such as number of dinners per box - offerings range from two dinners for two people to seven dinners for two people. Moreover, they may choose their shipment preferences on their online account page, such as preferred delivery day.
The company provides convenience by sending customers an e-mail with tracking information just before their meal is due to arrive. Furthermore, members are not required to provide a signature or be at home for their delivery – they can give instructions beforehand on where to leave the box. Moreover, Plated allows members to skip weeks (provided they give six days’ notice), change their plans with short notice, and cancel their subscriptions at no cost and at any time. Lastly, they can manage their account and schedule deliveries through the company’s mobile app.
The company reduces risk by ensuring the safety and security of food deliveries. Each package is hand-packed and shipped via FedEx or local couriers. The box is insulated, keeping food fresh up to midnight of the delivery day if unrefrigerated and for at least five days if refrigerated.
Plated’s main channel is its website, through which it acquires most customers. The company promotes its offering through its social media pages, online advertising, and regular contests and sweepstakes.
Plated’s customer relationship is primarily of a self-service, automated nature. Customers utilize its website or mobile app while having limited interaction with employees. The company’s website includes answers to frequently asked questions and information about “The Plated Cookbook”, a collection of the staff’s favorite recipes that can be ordered through various websites. That said, there is a personal assistance component in the form of phone and e-mail support.
Plated’s business model entails maintaining a robust platform for its customers. The platform includes its website and mobile app.
Plated does not maintain a formal partnership program; however, it does frequently form alliances with various types of organizations for promotional and other purposes. Examples include the following:
- The company has partnered with Real Simple magazine to create meal boxes based on recipes featured in the publication and offer them to customers
- The company has partnered with Veuve Clicquot, a French champagne house, to pair its “Chef’s Table” brand of meal boxes with bottles of champagne
- The company has partnered with Chobani to create recipes that incorporate the popular Greek yogurt
- The company has selected Kenwood and De’Longhi as its exclusive small appliance partners; the alliance includes a marketing campaign featuring digital ads, in-store offers, and offline events
Plated’s main resource is its staff of culinary experts, who design creative recipes for customers utilizing unique ingredients. The company also relies on its technology staff to maintain its website/mobile app. An important physical resource is the set of fulfillment centers it maintains in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco; it plans to eventually open three additional ones in Los Angeles, Miami, and Dallas. Lastly, as a relatively new startup it has relied heavily on funding from outside parties, raising more than $56.4 million from 17 investors as of July 2015.
Plated has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through significant automation and low-price value propositions. Its biggest cost driver is likely product development, a fixed expense. Other major drivers are in the areas of customer support/operations and sales/marketing, also fixed costs.
Plated has one revenue stream: the subscription fees it charges for its meal plans. Pricing for its recipes starts at $12 per individual dinner. “Chef’s Table” recipes include specialty cuts of seafood or meat and thus vary based on market price. Dessert costs $4 per serving.
Plated’s subscription plans are as follows (free shipping is offered for boxes costing more than $50):
- 2 dinners for 2 people - $48/week (plus a $6 shipping fee)
- 3 dinners for 2 people - $72/week
- 4 dinners for 2 people - $96/week
- 5 dinners for 2 people - $120/week
- 6 dinners for 2 people - $144/week
- 7 dinners for 2 people - $168/week
info: Nick earned a B.A. at Dartmouth College, an MPA at Harvard’s School of Government, and an MBA at Harvard Business School. He previously served as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and as a Private Wealth Advisor at Goldman Sachs.
info: Josh earned a B.S. at the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA at Harvard Business School. He previously served as the Co-Founder and CEO of PlusScrn, a Senior Investment Associate at Bridgewater Associates, and as the Co-Founder and CTO of ZeeWise.
info: Robert earned a B.S. in Finance at Penn State University and an MBA in Finance and Accounting at New York University. He previously served as Vice President of Finance at Olo and LivingSocial, as well as the Director of FFP&A at RecycleBank.
info: Keith earned a BBA at Temple University. He previously served as a Food Service Director at LPM Holding Company, as Chef Manager at Compass Group, as Executive Chef at Just Food, and as Executive Banquet Chef at The Lambertville Station.
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