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How do food delivery startups stay in business?

One of them, Munchery, says it’s now profitable in the San Francisco Bay Area.

James Temple for Recode

Open the app, press a few buttons and — voila — within a couple hours, a restaurant-quality meal shows up at your door.

That's the premise of San Francisco-based Munchery, one of many startups trying to change the way we eat. Its approach is to prepare meals at a central kitchen in one of its three markets (the Bay Area, New York and Seattle) and then deliver them to paying users in a 30-40 mile radius. Others, such as Grubhub, DoorDash and Yelp-owned Eat24, act more as middlemen between users and an existing restaurant's takeout business.

On the latest episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask, Munchery CEO Tri Tran defended his company's approach as better for the consumer because it keeps meal costs down. He and the podcast's co-hosts, Recode's Kara Swisher and The Verge's Lauren Goode, also discussed how Munchery is eyeing the entrance of big new competitors like Amazon and Uber.

Kara, Lauren and Tri also answered our readers' and listeners' questions about food tech companies, and debated the 2016 Code Conference appearance of Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown, whose company has made a plant-based beef alternative that it claims even diehard meat lovers will enjoy. Tran said Munchery is interested in enabling that idea, too.

"You brought up companies like Impossible Foods and [Just Mayo maker] Hampton Creek," Tran said. "To me, the science aspect of coming up with brand new ingredients, let's say for plant-based foods that these companies are doing — we're in conversation with all these folks. Whenever it fits, we would happily work with them to feature some of these great ingredients on our menu for customers to try."

Listen to Too Embarrassed to Ask in the audio player above, or subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn or Stitcher.

Thank you to Kaitlyn, David, Cindy, Tyler, Caroline, Micaela and everyone else who sent in their thoughts about food tech. You can tweet your questions, comments and complaints about any tech topic to @LaurenGoode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed. And be sure to follow Lauren, @KaraSwisher and @Recode to get alerted when we're looking for questions about a specific topic.

If you like this show, you should also check out our other podcasts:

  • Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with the movers and shakers in tech and media every Monday. You can subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.
  • And finally, Recode Replay has all the audio from our live events such as this week's Code Conference, Recode Media and the Code Commerce Series. Subscribe today on iTunes, Google Play Music, TuneIn and Stitcher.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Lauren. Tune in next Friday for another episode of Too Embarrassed to Ask!

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