If you know anyone who works below 59th Street in Manhattan and is under the age of 40, the odds are pretty high that you know someone who has used Maple, a popular delivery start-up that’s kinda similar to Seamless or Uber Eats. The main differentiator is that Maple has its own in-house menu of a handful of items each day, rather than serving as a middleman for other restaurants. It makes them in assembly-line facilities throughout the city.
Part of the appeal of Maple is that its meal prices, even with delivery, are competitive with most of the lunch options in Manhattan that aren’t fast food or a bodega sandwich. Yet, as documents obtained by Recode show, those low prices were hurting their bottom line. In 2015, Maple lost money on each meal it delivered. But by March of this year, when the documents Recode obtained were created, Maple was making about 30 cents in profit on each meal.
Still, Maple right now is not profitable, and nine months ago, it was projecting an operating loss of $16 million on $40 million in revenue. Unprofitability is typical of early start-ups hoping to rope in users and then monetize (see also: Uber), but it does demonstrate how even the most popular apps in any sector can back themselves into a financial corner. Part of Maple’s tough margins have to do with its laudable company policy of designating delivery people as employees, not contractors, and providing the requisite benefits, such as health insurance.
Maple recently added a $1.95 delivery fee to its meals, and throughout the year has introduced menu items that it does not produce itself — ice cream, beer, and wine. It also raised another round of funding at a lower valuation than the previous round. Given that these internal projections were made back in March, it’s unclear how much things have changed in the meantime.