I’ve always been fascinated by food delivery in South Korea. I’m not just saying that because I interned this summer at a food delivery startup, and I also happen to be Korean American. For those who have been fortunate enough to have experienced it, South Korean food delivery is truly a spectacle to behold!
While on-demand food delivery is still in its early stages here in the US, South Korea has long been perfecting the art of delivering an ever increasing variety of freshly-made food straight to your door. Have you heard of “McDelivery”? In Seoul, McDonald’s delivery has been around for years! The fact that Goldman Sachs invested $36M into a Seoul-based food delivery startup, Baedal Minjok, is a testament to the reputation of South Korean food delivery (“K-Delivery”).
Not too long ago, while I was visiting the motherland, I was lucky enough to try it for the first time. And lucky for you, I’m going to save you the trip by sharing with you my own personal experience in Korea’s fine art of food delivery!
Let’s start from the very beginning: what instilled in me the insatiable desire to try K-Delivery? Korean dramas. I’m sure fellow fans of the Korean drama (“K-Drama”) scene can relate to how long lasting the impression and how deep the influence of a show can be. You’d be hard-pressed to find a K-Drama heroine or hero who doesn’t, at one point or another, order some amazing Korean dish you’ll find yourself drooling over. For me, it was when the lead heroine from Coffee Prince ordered “jajangmyeon” (a bowl of noodles with black bean sauce) that I vowed to do the same when visiting Korea.
Fast-forward a couple years, and the mesmerizing opportunity was before me. The time had finally come as I was in Korea, and nothing was going to stop me. My friend and I weren’t aware of online delivery services at the time, and so we ordered delivery the old school way: via phone. It wasn’t even 15 minutes before we heard a knock on the door. We opened the door to find a Korean “ahjussi” (a middle-aged man) holding a helmet in one hand and a metal container on the other, which looked somewhat like a filing cabinet with handles. I’m not sure if it was the speed of the delivery or the insulation of the filing cabinet-looking container, but our food was piping hot and…amazing!
It wasn’t until we finished our meal that we realized we were eating out of ceramic plates and bowls, and not the usual disposable Styrofoam containers we’ve grown to expect. This is an interesting distinction between South Korean food delivery and US food delivery. In the US, we’re accustomed to take-out and delivery foods traveling in disposable containers. In South Korea, however, food that you have delivered comes in the same bowls, plates, etc., you would use if you were dining in at the restaurant. Finally, once you’re done eating, you leave everything right outside your door for the delivery man to come back and pick it up. It’s kind of like room service, but all from the comfort of your own home!
And just like that, I had achieved one of my life-long goals. I felt accomplished. I felt successful. I was ready to take on any of life’s challenges. Then I realized I was hungry again so I ordered another bowl of “jajangmyeon.”