Brick-and-mortar locations are no longer a necessity for building billion dollar brands in the digital economy. Uber, Airbnb, and many others have conquered the problem of building a brand without offering a physical location for customers to visit. Recently, delivery-only dining service Maple is revolutionizing what it means to build a prominent food service brand—without a retail storefront.
Unlike Uber, Airbnb, and similar brands, restaurants diving into the Uber business model have unique challenges. Because eating out in traditional restaurants means a large part of the dining experience relies on the aesthetic of a physical space, eliminating the location means transferring that brand experience elsewhere. Maple has successfully done just that, creating a business with no physical restaurant, where the brand experience lives online, in the delivery transaction - and in the emotional connection to the story of how and by whom their meal was prepared.
Maple averages 800 meals per hour from its four different kitchens in the New York City area, but efficiency is just one small part of Maple’s success. Caleb Merkl, one of the founders of Maple, talks about how the restaurant experience rarely travels with the delivery service. He says that when there is no physical space to make an emotional connection, the food needs to do this - by imbuing it with a human story.
To create a compelling brand experience, Maple spotlights their chefs by noting who made your meal that day. Rather than relying on a well branded and decorated interior to create emotion, the quality, time, and hard work put into crafting the meal becomes the touch point between Maple and the consumer. With the dishes changing week to week, the chefs put time and effort into thinking what dishes they need to create in the future. Maple shares Dish Inspiration articles, which detail the vision the chef had for that particular dish and the creative process they went through to end up with the final meal. Beyond their food, Maple’s simple and refined packaging, and streamlined online experience, offers a memorable and personable touchpoint with each consumer.
Brand experiences can live beyond a physical space or even solely in a digital space. Creating personalized brand experiences that connect with consumers on a emotional and intangible level—through sharing visually rich, human stories and creating individualized experiences—can be far more compelling than anything a physical space can offer.