Many businesses are launched to satisfy a need, and Muncho is no different.
“I was at my brother’s house one Sunday and it was a pain to get a pizza delivered at 10 p.m.,” said Adam Chain, a Pennsylvania State University economics graduate from the Philadelphia suburbs who at the time was working at a start-up developing an app for car dealerships.
Chain said it took two hours that night for Domino’s — not their first choice — to deliver.
“Pizza delivery came out in the ‘50s, and since then, nothing’s really changed,” Chain said. “Why can’t I get a hot pizza delivered when I want it?”
Chain, 28, thinks he has come up with the answer to his dilemma, tricking out a van with an oven to bake pizzas en route to a customer and developing an app that allows ordering and payment.
Elijah Milligan, a chef friend, said he wasn’t convinced at first when Chain showed him a business plan. “Oh, I had to read over it two or three times,” Milligan said. “This is ambitious, but it’s innovative. And I think back to when people first heard of Amazon or Airbnb, they were like, ‘This is not going to work.’”
Chain, who was an investment banker for 16 months right out of school, persuaded four Philadelphia-area investors to put up $150,000 for the beta version of what he calls “the dream of pressing the button and next thing you know, food shows up at your door.”
Muncho took shape quickly over the last year, Chain said. With the first round of funding, he acquired a Dodge Ram van and had it wrapped in a red and yellow logo, and bought an oven and a fridge. He had the mobile app built. Milligan designed a pizza that could be par-baked, refrigerated, and heated, partnering with Grande Cheese Co. on a three-cheese blend.
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Chain leased kitchen space at the Arsenal, a business center in the city’s Bridesburg section, and began handing out fliers in the Fairmount and Spring Garden neighborhoods — specifically, the 19130 zip code — to drum up business for his first test, which launched in August.
After that, Chain went back to tinker. The second Muncho pilot launched Thanksgiving weekend, with the van starting each day at 5 p.m. with a fridge full of pizzas from the commissary and roaming the streets till 10 p.m. or sellout.
Chain said he was developing robotics to help automate some steps, which should smooth the process. When an order arrives on the app, the driver must pull over and climb into the back to put the chilling pizza into the oven for its six-minute bake. Once at the customer’s door, the driver must find a parking spot, pull the pizza from the oven, cut it and box it, and deliver.
The 14-inch pizzas are $16 for plain and $18 for topped varieties, including tax, tip, and delivery. The verdict: Good, with a generous, nicely browned cheese layer — a notch (maybe two) tastier than one of the better frozen pizzas, which would take longer to preheat the oven and prepare. Muncho’s bottom and outer crust was crispier than most delivered pizzas, probably because it was baked on its way over and not just kept warm in a metal box in a car trunk. Steam poured from the Muncho box as I opened the pepperoni pizza that I bought for a test.
Chain said Muncho so far has racked up an average delivery time of 8½ minutes, and 38% of customers have ordered at least twice. One patron, he said, walked from her home into the 19130 zip, ordered through the app, and got her pizza because “she said it was still faster than any other option.”
“Great-quality pizza at my doorstep for a reasonable price in under 10 minutes is the kind of futuristic world I want to live in,” said customer Andrew Corson, a remote IT manager, who praised Muncho’s customer service and policy of paying a living wage for workers. (Chain said employees are paid above the industry average: $25 an hour for drivers, $23 an hour for kitchen staff, with raises every six months.)
Nick Grabowski, who is in commercial property management, said he has ordered at least a half-dozen times since August’s debut. Though the price may seem high, “apples for apples, the bottom line is that it costs the same or a little bit less” than other delivered pizzas, Grabowski said. “The app has this super tracker vibe — you know where the pizza is.”
Chain said he was working on another round of funding ($2 million to $3 million) to expand throughout Philadelphia in 2022. He is looking to franchise zip codes, similar to how FedEx uses contractors to operate its “pickup-and-delivery” routes, and expand Muncho offerings to salads and desserts. After that, he wants to open in other cities.
More immediately, Chain said the Fairmount Muncho deliveries would be extended to midnight in coming weeks, with a 2 a.m. cutoff planned, and a second neighborhood (University City or Fishtown) will launch.