Zach Beauvais

Outsourcing Lunch

by | Apr 12, 2009 | Digital, Perspective

There are many things I want to do to improve the way I live. My little plot of the world should be made greener through fantastic gardening skills. My waistline should be happily withering while my biceps should be steadily broadening—despite the physical reality that I’d entirely lose my middle that way. Dinner parties should be thrown matching an excruciatingly-chosen bottle of wine with exquisitely-prepared, locally-sourced, organic food followed by exciting coffee preferably prepared using some seldom-seen flavour-extracting gadget.

The reality is that I tend not to have much time to get the very basics of social-acceptability complete before forcing myself to sleep. Much of this is by choice, no doubt.

Facts: I’d rather read than sleep; I’d rather train the dog to retrieve three different dummies than wash up; and I’d rather cook an exciting dinner than pack a mundane yet healthy lunch.

Much of the time I have, however, is spent working and travelling to work, and trying to get done the things I (and my wife) feel need to be done. A bit of gardening to keep the neighbours from tutting, a bit of washing up so dinner can be made, and walking/training the pup so he doesn’t go mental and eat the cat, our house and the whole world…

I have realised, over the past few weeks, that much of my lifestyle is dependent on a web-connected world. That last sentence reads a bit like an obvious reality from a blogger and someone employed in web innovation; but I mean more than just “My job is dependent on the web”. I work from home half the week rather than commuting the 60+ miles to the office every day; and this requires web access, a vpn connection to work, and various communication services. But I also live in rural Shropshire, and tend to do most of my shopping online. I phone my family back in the states via Skype and keep in touch with friends, colleagues and acquaintances on Twitter. I even plan meetings, arranging transport and buy any travel tickets online. It would be impossible for me to live here and work as I do without a web-enabled life.

The web is part of this lifestyle, though, and there is actually more to this “connected” living than just the links on the web. You see, there is something more about organisation involved. It’s not just that I have a connection to a retail site, but that they’ve innovated their organisation to the point that I can buy most of what I need and want, have it delivered to my door the next day, and still save money and a HUGE amount of time. These connected companies (more in another blog post, probably) are taking advantage of scale to bring a service to web-enabled shoppers.

But its only recently that more interesting services have begun to spring out of this connected cloud of companies. I’ve talked about, which organises charitable micro-finance loans through the medium of web-connection and building upon the shoulders of giants like PayPal, who were early innovators in organising payments online. But what about little things? Sure, we can change the world, but can we make a difference to, for example, how we eat tomorrow?

Enter: Rob at the office jokingly calls them SaaS (Snacking as a Service). Graze sends a box of healthy and tasty snacks through the post to arrive on subscribed days of the week (i.e. I have mine delivered to the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays). Graze mixes fresh and dried fruit with nuts and other healthy snacks, for £2.99/box including postage. This is great, healthy food delivered regularly to my desk in time for lunch for less than £3/day!

Graze mixes a few recent innovations to produce this service. Rob’s comment surfaces the “as a Service” ethic, which essentially fills a particular need on a subscription business model via the web. It’s also reminiscent of jukeboxes or music subscriptions applications like Spotify or even iTunes, in that you can choose the level of detail you want to use in organising your snacking, or you can simply “shuffle” them, being surprised but putting no effort into planning.

The long/short? I’ve actually saved money, because I no longer pop out to a petrol station to spend £4 on a barely edible sandwich and snack. I feel better, because this food is actually, truly great for me and It feels nice to eat something light but sustaining when sitting at a desk for hours. I don’t skip lunch, so I’m less inclined to trough when I get home, and all by simply outsourcing my lunch!

What else needs organising in life? Tidying as a service? No? Clothing? Wardrobe as a Service? Ooh, if anyone wants a startup, I’ve got a great idea for a service that delivers clothes perhaps monthly to keep your wardrobe refreshed, or allows for special days (weddings, balls etc… too). What would you outsource, and what service would you provide?

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  1. Simon

    I’ve had a look at the Graze box and I think £3 for a handful of nuts is extortionate! Next time you’re in the supermarket doing your weekly shop, why not drop in some fresh fruit and nuts, and pop a few in a Tupperware pot each morning? Still – if it means you don’t skip lunch and stops you troughing when you get home, it’s £3 well spent.

    >I feel better, because this food is actually, truly great for me and It feels nice to eat something light but sustaining when sitting at a desk for hours.

    It’s nice when you get that “I can tell this is doing me good” feeling. I get it when I’ve finished a bowl of Shredded Wheat, even though it’s clearly straw. It feels like it’s cleaning your body from the inside out.

    • Zach Beauvais

      I first thought £3 was a lot until I tried making my own “graze box”… Sure, you can just about make it cheaper but you miss out on a few of the main benefits the £3 brings. First, you’ve essentially outsourced the job. It adds a structure to which you can subscribe. I know my lunch will be there now, and the alternative is £3 for a terrible sandwich anyway. Additionally, the benefit of having a random selection with weighted options for things I like means that I get a bit of a surprise. If I buy the same kinds of foods from the shop, in order to stay under my £3/day, I have to eat the same selection for about three days. So, yes: £3 for a handful of nuts is a lot of money; but that’s not what I bought.

      I agree about the feel-good value. Fortunately, I tend to actually like a lot of the feel-good foods. Fresh fruit and oats and suchlike are great! Not sure about Wheatabix, though… that’s just edible bricks…


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