Food delivery apps have taken over San Francisco. Here's why.

California has weather and New York has delivery. Less than a decade ago, the few restaurant delivery options that existed in San Francisco were rarely anything you'd want to eat given the choice, and the idea of ordering in without having to go out and pick it up was more of a novelty than a regular occurrence.

But just as the San Francisco-based Uber transformed transportation in a city notorious for its residents' inability to flag a taxi, so too do a relatively new crop of companies — notably Postmates, Sprig, SpoonRocket, Caviar, and Munchery — aim to change delivery options, both in Bay Area and beyond. All five companies were founded and are still headquartered in San Francisco or Berkeley, even as they expand into cities across the United States. In 2014, the five services brought in a combined total of $78 million in funding. (Just last month, Postmates alone secured an additional $35 million.) But what, exactly, are these companies delivering? Is their proliferation a sign of changing food culture in the Bay Area and beyond? And why are they popping up now, after all these years of accepting SF's terrible delivery options fate?

Mention instant delivery and San Francisco, and it's hard not to immediately think of Kozmo.com, the legendary service that launched in 1998 at the height of dot-com bubble. Whether you tried Kozmo or simply heard of it as a cautionary tale, the idea of getting people whatever they wanted, wherever they were in San Francisco ultimately failed spectacularly. But in retrospect, Kozmo.com was ahead of its time in tapping into a rich vein of the human condition: We want food, we sometimes want it in very specific ways, and we want it brought to us as quickly as possible.

Exactly a decade since Kozmo.com shuttered its doors, and long before its rumored rebirth, a new brand of delivery service has emerged in San Francisco. What makes these companies new isn't the underlying philosophy: Instead, recent technological advances and the expectations of a certain new breed of user have altered the delivery landscape substantially. In 1998 there was no iPhone or Android. There were almost no smartphones, period — the first BlackBerry was yet to be introduced, and even that was a two-way pager. Without those phones and the GPS tracking they enable, delivery logistics were markedly different for users and especially for services. And these technological upgrades have changed our expectations substantially when it comes to how we get goods and how quickly. Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates, points out that "whenever something was possible faster, we rarely ever went back and said we'd like something slower. Google trained us for 15 years that a faster search is a better search. Amazon did their best to reduce their Amazon Prime deliveries from five days to two-to-three days.... having fast access to goods is super-appealing to customers."

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