WebiNerds recently designed an automated menu-builder for Massachusetts-based startup The Dinner Daily. The new system is efficient and scalable, preparing The Dinner Daily to go nation-wide.
What’s for dinner?
Massachusetts-based startup The Dinner Daily answers the question “What’s for dinner?” by offering customized weekly dinner menus complete with shopping lists and coupons. They help busy families plan healthy dinner meals — complete with sides — while saving time and money.
Most recipes in The Dinner Daily’s repertoire only take around 30 minutes to make, and their recipes are tested on kids of all ages. While The Dinner Daily does offer subscription plans for couples, it’s clear that they’re focused on families with kids. If a dish doesn’t pass the “kids love it” test, then they won’t include it in their database.
The Dinner Daily’s service starts at only $4 per month, but you’re practically guaranteed to save more than that if you take advantage of the manufacturer’s coupons they bundle with your menu and shopping list. They also help you save money by tracking sales at certain grocery store chains and building customized menus that account for those sales. While The Dinner Daily offers the greatest value to subscribers who shop at grocery chains whose sales they track, their service is available for everyone, even if they don’t track your local store’s weekly specials.
How does The Dinner Daily work?
From the subscriber’s perspective:
It’s easy to get started with The Dinner Daily. Just pick one of their six menu plans: Everything, No Seafood, No Red Meat/ No Pork, Poultry & Vegetarian, Vegetarian with Seafood, or Vegetarian. You’ll receive a weekly menu with dinner recipes for every weekday, along with convenient shopping lists and manufacturer’s coupons. If you shop at a supported grocery store chain, The Dinner Daily will even factor your store’s weekly specials into your customized dinner menu.
To keep life interesting, The Dinner Daily also mixes up meal types and avoids regularly repeating the same meal. In other words, you won’t have a chicken-based dish two nights in a row, you’ll get to use the crockpot but not every day, and you won’t see Chicken Dijon twice in the same month.
Behind the scenes:
As you might imagine, creating customized weekly menus for Dinner Daily subscribers — taking into account menu plans, on-sale ingredients at particular stores, frequency of ingredients in recipes, and more — involves some complex calculations.
Until recently, customized menus were actually crafted by hand, based on meal information stored in a Microsoft Access database. Dinner Daily employees would look at which recipes had been used recently and what was on sale that week, and would then hand-pick each dinner, along with sides. They would then manually upload PDF menus and shopping lists, and subscribers could log in to their dashboard and download them. In short, the meal planning process was personalized, but required a lot of time and effort on the backend (and we’re not talking CPU cycles)!
How did WebiNerds optimize the menu-building process?
As The Dinner Daily looked to expand nation-wide, as well as to offer greater menu customization options, it was clear that hand-curated weekly menus would no longer cut it. So they turned to WebiNerds to automate their menu-building logic. Choosing what’s for dinner was, indeed, a challenging task.
“Capturing all the human thought and logic that went into our menus each week was a daunting task. The team at Webinerds worked closely with us during the design phase of the project so they fully understood our complex process of menu generation, well before we started development. It was this intense focus on the details, as well as consistent communication, that lead to a very successful outcome. Our new system has provided us with enormous efficiencies and has set us up to scale nationally.” — Laurin Mills, Founder & CEO of The Dinner Daily
Adding the final touch to the dinner menu
For now, all Dinner Daily menus are personally approved by administrators to assure the highest quality of dinner selections. Administrators can make any alterations they think best before menus go live for customers. This manual approval process is only designed to be short-term, however, as adjustments are made to the new system. Once it’s fully optimized, the meal selection system will be able to run with minimal oversight.
Dinner Daily subscribers can already notice several improvements.
Dinner Daily subscribers will already notice a few improvement to their service — besides more rule-abiding menus.
- Menus and shopping lists are now displayed as HTML pages, making them more elegant and mobile-friendly. (PDFs are still available for downloading and/or printing.)
- Meals are repeated less frequently, as usage rates are automatically regulated.
- It’s now possible for a subscriber to remove a meal from their weekly menu and select alternate meals through their unique “Switch It” feature. In the near future, alternate meals will automatically be recommended in place of meals that the subscriber removes.
The conclusion: Webinerds and APD helped TDD achieve its goal of having a scalable back-end system that captures the human logic of creating menus.
The automation of The Dinner Daily’s menu-building system has prepared them for a smooth nation-wide launch and created a system that can scale as the company grows.
You can test it out for yourself with a free 14-day trial. Bon appetit!