Backed by $3.6 million in funding from Aslanoba Capital, one of Turkey’s most active venture firms, the company wants to replace fast food with traditional, healthy Turkish cooking for a generation of young people and families that rely increasingly less on full-time, in-home cooks.
Just three months ago, Turkish online food ordering startup Yemeksepeti sold to Delivery Hero for a massive $589 million in one of the largest food delivery acquisitions yet. Meal Box hopes to gain just as much traction by catering to a different need.
“The big opportunity in Turkey is that there are local tastes, but there is no trustworthy corporate player or restaurant that delivers at your doorstep,” says Meal Box founder Murat Demirhan. “What I can order through food ordering websites is not local food, it’s pizza and fast food.”
From cooking to delivery, Meal Box controls the entire process with a hub and franchise model that allows the company to offer higher quality food at a lower price point. All meals are cooked and assembled in a single centralized kitchen, and delivered by truck to 20 franchised delivery centers in the early hours of the morning.
Istanbul is a massive city — over 2,000 square miles with a population of 14 million — so some delivery hubs are up to 60 miles away from the kitchen, Demirhan says. Having this network of prep centers means that Meal Box can promise to deliver hot food to customers within 30 minutes of ordering.
“These are dock stores, so the rent is really low, and because there’s no cooking involved and there’s only one or two people handling the whole operation, the labor costs are low,” says Demirhan.
Even though 90 percent of Meal Box orders are made through the website, mobile app, and Yemeksepeti (where Meal Box meals are listed), the company still operates a call center to cater to the more traditional segment of the Turkish population.
Since launching in June of last year, the company has filled over 160,000 orders in Istanbul alone, and they’re growing sales, which currently hover around 1,300 daily orders, by more than 30 percent month over month. Meal Box will be expanding to Ankara and other major cities in Turkey before the end of the year.
“The need for healthy, home-cooked Turkish food is clear when you visit Yemeksepeti, the leading online food ordering marketplace in Turkey, and the majority of restaurants serve fast food and doner kebabs [Turkish street food],” says Cankut Durgun, founding partner of Aslanoba Capital. “The full potential of Istanbul, and the rest of Turkey, is a massive, untouched opportunity.”