Philadelphians will soon be able to get a week’s worth of ready-to-eat and easy-to-cook meals from restaurants like Baology, Sate Kampar, and Jezabel’s delivered to their homes.
It’s a creative take on restaurant delivery that Judy Ni, who owns the casual Taiwanese eatery Baology, hopes can be one solution to the COVID-19 crisis, which has forced Pennsylvania restaurants to close their dining rooms for at least two weeks, and possibly longer. Ni is still finalizing some details but is launching the service March 20.
It’s a scary time for restaurants, which already operate on thin margins. After talking with her friends in the hospitality industry about ways to keep their restaurants afloat, Ni assembled a group of restaurant owners and managers, all women, to join her in offering a meal kit service.
Meal kit companies like Blue Apron and HelloFresh deliver pre-portioned ingredients and simple recipes. They’ve become a popular alternative to grocery shopping and traditional dinner prep. The Baology-led project falls somewhere between meal kit and regular restaurant takeout, delivering a mix of dishes and ingredients from a few Philly restaurants.
For now, customers can get a package full of these meals from both Baology and Central American eatery El Merkury delivered to their doorstep. Argentinian cafe Jezabel’s, Malaysian BYOB Sate Kampar, Southern restaurant Rex 1516, wine and snacks spot Jet Wine Bar, Mexican eatery Cafe Ynez, and bakery Lost Bread all plan to join the service too. For a minimum order — $40 in Philadelphia and $100 in the surrounding suburbs, plus a $25 delivery charge — customers will be able to pick and choose dishes and ingredients from each restaurant.
Options include dishes that can spend a few days in the fridge or freezer and just need to be heated in the oven or microwave, and others that require some basic cooking, like what customers find in a typical meal kit. There will also be sauces, condiments, and items for food-based projects meant to engage kids, like a make-your-own-potsticker kit.
“We need to take care of each other during this time,” Ni says. “We want to get healthy, flavorful, minimally processed food to people to help them stay healthy. Families will need that support as they extend their times together.”
Ni spent the last week organizing this effort. She’s gathering the meals, packaging them, and delivering them, until she can line up some other drivers. Pickup at Baology (1829 JFK Boulevard) can also be arranged.
It’s been somewhat of a Herculean effort for the restaurateur, who operates out of a 1,000-square-foot restaurant. She’s quickly become the web designer, logistics manager, partnership developer, delivery driver, and marketer for the new service — all while most of the city is in shutdown mode.
“Times like this can showcase the best of us,” Ni says. “For Taiwanese people, we gather around food, so this is perfect.”