Above: Bamboo Asia’s Sous Vide Meal Kit; all photos by Hannah Van Wagner
If you’ve never heard of Bamboo Asia – Far Out Market until now, it might surprise you to know that it actually has four different brick-and-mortar locations that have all been serving the Bay Area for the past 10 years.
The fine-casual restaurant chain pivoted to selling meal kits so fast, I almost didn’t realize that delivery wasn’t their main mode of business.
With their four locations across San Francisco and Oakland closed for the time being, the Bamboo Asia team has been powering their own in-house delivery service for the past several months.
Unlike most restaurants I’ve talked to, Bamboo Asia doesn’t use DoorDash, Uber Eats, or Grubhub, which helps them pocket more profits given the hefty fees that third-party delivery services charge. Their surprisingly fast pivot into selling pre-made meals wasn’t so surprising for the team. Their restaurant group was born ready for this delivery transition.
Before the pandemic hit, Bamboo Asia catered events for Bay Area tech giants like Apple and Amazon, so they were prepared to deliver premade meals in high volumes. The team also built their own inventory management system when all available solutions on the market couldn’t fit their needs.
It’s no wonder that when I checked out their website, I thought they had always been another home meal kit service like HelloFresh or Purple Carrot.
But the inspiration behind Bamboo Asia wasn’t so close to home. Dutch food entrepreneur Sebastiaan Van De Rijt opened the restaurant after being blown away by the street food he sampled during his travels in the Far East.
He combined traditional cooking methods with high-tech solutions to create authentic and convenient Japanese, Indian, and Vietnamese meals busy professionals could enjoy without stepping on a plane. The innovative business was named one of Fast Casual’s “Brands to Watch” in 2019.
Every component of the Asian-inspired meal kits are cooked sous vide, meaning the meat, veggies, and other ingredients are vacuum sealed into plastic pouches and cooked on low heat in water baths for extended periods of time. This method of cooking helps keep both the food and the packaging clean, making it a perfect solution for the pandemic.
The top selling meal kits are the Vietnamese Hanoi Chicken and the Japanese Salmon Teriyaki. Bamboo Asia also very recently launched Indian meal kits, including Tandoori Chicken, Golden Gate Lamb Shank, and Tikka Masala Paneer. You can pair any entree kit with a drink from Bamboo Asia’s excellent selection of wine and beer.
For restaurants that are struggling to make delivery work well for them, Bamboo Asia’s chief marketing officer Hannah Wagner offered a few tips: “Take into consideration the delivery time and how the food will hold over time. Choose menu items that travel well. Keep labor costs low and simplify your menu. Lastly, communicate clearly on your website how customers can order, and make it easy for them.”
Bamboo Asia hopes to open its brick-and-mortar locations in the near future, but for now, you can enjoy a meal from abroad right in the comfort of your own home.