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    Aa A general rule of thumb, we can all agree that choice is good. It’s a value I’ve found sits prettily with two other constants at the end of a long work day – listless channel surfing and takeaway food. With the former, I’m always glad for choice – I couldn’t reconcile myself to a world where I didn’t have the choice between shrieking news anchors, B-grade reality TV stars and the umpteenth re-run of the Harry Potter film franchise.

    But with takeaway, I occasionally find myself cursing the smorgasbord of options, wishing I didn’t have to scroll through a zillion menus, badly-spelt and uniformly-vitriolic customer reviews or outdated listicles before I make up my mind. In an attempt to fix similar conundrums for customers, innovative food start-ups do what I like to call the “Hobson’s Choice” menu. For the uninitiated, the phrase comes from a stable owner named Thomas Hobson who, presumably being a stickler for order, asked customers to pick a horse from a stall nearest to the door or none at all. Essentially, it describes any free choice where the option available is singular – in popular parlance, the ‘take-it-or-leave’, if you will. What my list of Hobson’s Choice food start-ups do is make choosing your meal simpler by doing away with those pompous menus on which every cuisine discovered is listed, but half the dishes unavailable. Instead, start-ups like Dazo curate food demand by putting out a set-piece menu; a select menu of dishes with local food partners that changes every day. What they’ve managed successfully is streamlining the takeaway order process so it involves just three taps on your smartphone. Meanwhile, innovators like FreshMenu are rebranding the concept of takeaway meals, drawing it away from the popular notion that it is greasy, unhealthy, artery-clogging fare. Instead, they’re bringing fine dining to the takeaway space. Plus, the options on the menus at these food start-ups aren’t as “take-it-or-leave”, as Hobson intended – there’s still a fair few choices; FreshMenu’s includes mains, desserts, appetisers and a few all-day staples. What start-ups like Dazo and FreshMenu have done well to figure out is that experience of eating out is now a daily feature within the working-class demographic. They’ve become sources of reliable and wholesome takeaway, while retaining customer interest with new menus each day.

    — pauldharamraj@gmail.com

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