For a 21st century company, whose tag line is “Eating Well Made Easy,” a critical ingredient to success is—drumroll please—the World Wide Web.
Foodies often grow weary cycling through the same set of go-to recipes that they can whip together without much fuss after a hard day’s work. At least the erstwhile chefs in my household do.
Although our favorite-recipe list has evolved over the years, it remains relatively stable at about 10-12 recipes. Grilled chicken. Baked haddock. Stir-fry beef. Pasta and meat sauce. Etc. Etc. So it was with this meal monotony in mind that we took a chance on Plated.
Their expertise, your labor
In a nutshell, Plated employs talented chefs to put together a vast array of recipes, works with grocers to provide locally-sourced fresh ingredients, and then measures, assembles, packages and ships the usually fresh and wholesome ingredients to your door.
Your role in all this? You prepare the meals. If you pay a membership fee, the per-plate cost is around $12, and if you order dessert along with your main dishes, or go over $50 on an order, shipping is free.
Each week, my spouse and I go online, choose from a list of that week’s recipes, and pay online for the food and delivery.
Normally, we arrange for delivery on Friday, and order a couple of dishes that will feed us for the weekend. We take a proactive approach to choosing the dishes, and don’t order every week.
But you can choose to simply subscribe and have Plated choose and ship your recipes on a regular schedule. I could see this approach being attractive to busy folks who want one less thing to worry about, and also to somewhat minimize their weekly grocery list.
Plated ships on Tuesday and Friday each week, so you could order enough meals for the entire week. Plated claims that the ingredients will stay fresh for 4-5 days, so even the subscription option gives you some flexibility.
The downside of the automated approach is that you don’t get to choose every recipe, and may not like some that they ship to you.
Speaking from personal experience— we’ve probably tried 60-70 different recipes from the company—there have only been four or five that we didn’t care for.
Vegans and vegetarians welcome
Plated recipes run the gamut from French, Mediterranean, North African, Asian, American, and other regional recipes. The company provides pre-measured spices, fresh produce, and reasonably sized portions of fish, beef, poultry or other meats.
However, we’ve noticed a trend with restaurants over the last couple of years, and Plated probably has too.
More and more restaurants are offering gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, or avoid gluten, Plated offers multiple selections each week that would be suitable.
For example, this week one selection was Coconut Black Rice with Spring Vegetables.
Most meals fall under the category of standard selections. However, Plated also offers Chef’s Table selections, which are higher in price, but generally include higher-end ingredients. For example, one week we had Grilled Duck Breast with Mushroom Rissoto
Although Plated is happy to service any customer, it’s evident that the company is appealing to millennials, young professionals, environmentalists, and foodies who worry about the industrial food complex.
On its website, Plated plays up its locally-sourced food providers, quality standards, and responsible packaging. Although it delivers nationwide, the company claims that it is able to source the food to 95% of its customers from a nearby Plated facility.
In terms of environmental friendliness, Plated emphasizes that by buying “just what you need for each recipe, you help minimize food waste and make the world a more sustainable place.” The company also says that it is working towards using entirely “carbon-neutral” packaging in 2015.
As for quality standards, the company claims that it uses only antibiotic and hormone-free meat, sustainable seafood, and fresh and locally-sourced produce.
The proof is in the pudding
Having used Plated for almost a year now, I can attest that the company mostly lives up to its promises. Although we’ve not enjoyed every recipe that we’ve received, the variety of ingredients, flavors and cuisines has been a revelation. The meats, produce, and seasonings have almost always been fresh and of very good quality.
We’ve had a few hiccups with deliveries. A few weeks during our awful New England winter this year, deliveries were either late or, in one case, not delivered at all.
But the good news is that you can get a Plated rep on the phone, and on every occasion, the company has credited us with free meals. It does feel like the company cares about, and wants to maintain, its customers.
Regarding the recipes, themselves, I have a few relatively minor complaints. First, it always takes me longer to prepare a meal than what Plated claims. If the estimate on the recipe card is 30-40 minutes, it can take me 60-90 minutes.
Part of this is that I’m not a particularly efficient chef, and the other part is the recipe cards, themselves.
Plated uses a standard template for all its recipes, which I think could be better designed. Although there are pictures, which help to illustrate each part of the process, the text can be rather dense and undifferentiated. As a technical writer, I think bulleted or numbered sub-steps beneath each picture, as well as more white space, would really help.
After much practice, however, I am getting better and more efficient at preparing Plated recipes. I’ve internalized some of the processes that are frequently presented. I’m also starting to see some repetition in parts of the recipes—the same or similar spices, preparation methods, and so on.
All things considered, Plated has been a nice addition to our food preparation routines and taste options.
Where technology comes in
So far in this column, I’ve talked about food a whole lot more than technology. But what makes Plated a technology story?
The recipes and ingredients are described and pictured in all their glory. Calorie counts and profiles of the chefs are provided.
Like most Internet-based companies, Plated provides chat, email, and phone support, as well as a comprehensive FAQ page.
Although customer support hours are not available on weekends, when you do contact Plated, you pretty quickly get a real human on the other end, and they are always helpful.
The website provides a pretty standard account creation process. You enter your name, shipping address, and a credit card number, and you specify username and password credentials.
It’s hard to tell if the website and customer portal is any more or less secure than other similar e-commerce sites. I think you can safely assume that if someone wanted to hack the Plated site, they probably could do so. As always, use strong passwords and only provide a credit card that has a low limit or offers full fraud protection—or both.
Plated also has a mobile app for iPhones and iPads. Given Apple’s very tight ecosystem, it might be safer to conduct business through the app than directly through the Plated website. But that’s your call.
Otherwise, eat well and be happy. Plated will gladly help you with this.