Baby It's Cold Outside

Munchery Illegally Storing Refrigerated Food on the Streets of the Mission

Not just content to disrupt the burgeoning Bay Area meal-delivery industry, Munchery, the Mission-based start up that promises to “handcraft meals fresh from scratch each day in small batches” has begun a rapid process of expansion. Having raised $28 million in funding this past April, expanded to Seattle in July, and with plans to service New York, LA, and DC in the works, it appears that Munchery has developed a successful formula for growth.

So what new and game-changing technique has Munchery, a company that delivers chilled, fully plated meals to your door, brought to the scene?

Outside refrigerators. 

Prep for the evening’s deliveries begin each morning at 5:00 AM, and at some point assembled meals need to be stuck in a refrigerator to await delivery. Munchery’s Alabama Street location just so happens to be unable to accommodate the volume of food that needs refrigeration. And so to solve this problem, Munchery has devised a genius solution: rent diesel powered refrigerated trucks and run them as auxiliary coolers.

The trucks, pictured above parked outside of Munchery’s kitchen, are a solution that only a start-up could conceive. Unlike your regular pesky “inside refrigerators,” these paradigm-shifting mobile cooling units are parked outside on the public street. And therein lies the brilliance: with real estate in the Mission at such a premium, Munchery has managed to drastically increase their kitchen size without paying a cent in property costs.

And so what if in order for the refrigeration units in the rented trucks to actually work, the trucks’ engines have to be on and idling? In the last week, Uptown Almanac has walked by the Munchery offices approximately fifteen times (we live and work in the area), and on every occasion at least one of these trucks has been idling and pumping out exhaust into the surrounding neighborhood.

In addition to being a general nuisance/bad for the environment, this practice is expressly illegal under California law.

The trucks, which are parked illegally and ticketed daily (see the above photo) at a rate of $110 per violation, also contribute to chronic congestion on a street that has over the past few years seen a drastic uptick in commercial use.

When reached for comment, Munchery co-founder and CEO Tri Tran stated that “it’s absolutely false that we have refrigerated trucks running at all times. We use them during the middle of the day (mostly for transporting food to other facilities), and always turn them off by 6pm.” However, one Uptown Almanac tipster says that isn’t true—at least one truck is kept on and idling all day.

This practice has not gone without notice, and has in fact generated numerous complaints from neighbors. A tipster tells us that Munchery’s response to these complaints has been to give the surrounding neighbors free meals—which could be interpreted as a cheap bribe to buy their silence. But to be fair, who doesn’t love free food with an even freer side of exhaust?

Disregard for laws and regulations that get in the way of growth is something we’ve come to expect from the start up world. This specific example just happens to be a bit more jarring because it comes from a company that brags about its “eco friendly everything” and dedication to “greening [their] footprint in every way.”

Tran stressed that the company is working to rectify the situation, and that in addition to turning off the idling tucks by the end of the business day, Munchery is moving its main operations team to another location (“targeting before the end of the month”). Presumably, this new location will have appropriate cold-storage space.

Tran insisted that “it’s very important to us that our neighbors see us as a positive part of the community,” and that among other positive contributions to the community, Munchery has “hired a private security team to improve general security of the neighborhood (not just [the Munchery] facility).”

So the next time you’re chowing down on your quinoa, mushroom and cheddar burger, rest easy knowing that not only was your meal made with the best intentions but that it was protected from the ravages of its Mission birth place via private security.

If only such consideration could be given to the people living and working in the neighborhood.

Their acorn squash tangine does look pretty delicious, though.

Update November 13th, 2014: Since the publication of the above piece, neighbors of Munchery’s Alabama Street kitchen reached out to Uptown Almanac to detail the many ways in which the “business has had a huge negative impact on [the] neighborhood.” Read our follow up piece

Update February 12th, 2015: Since this story was originally published, Munchery opened a second kitchen a few blocks east of their Alabama Street location. Munchery’s new neighbors reached out to Uptown Almanac with a 20 page document detailing the ways in which the company’s business practices have “created a major disruption and created health & safety issues for residents, visitors and employees of local businesses.” Find our follow up story here.

Comments (80)

The trucks, pictured above parked outside of Munchery’s kitchen, are a solution that only a start-up could conceive.

Sounds more like something a small business in a third world country would conceive, only to have photos leaked to ThereIFixedIt.

Thanks, good investigation. More of them!

get this man some bitcoin

Awesome, thank you UA!  The Munchery has pretty much been a nightmare from day 1.  

Next time you walk by, also look at the streets for that whole side of the block – disgustingly filthy with Munchery trash, dead rats, etc.  

Then look up at the trees.  Those same trucks have destroyed our trees by backing into them and breaking off limbs – for years.  

Then look at their roof – the Munchery uses industrial ovens but illegally fills them with wood like you would a smoker.  Its spews out toxic smoke 24/7, and buillds up so much creosote that their Munchkins (boom - you’re welcome!) have to climb around with lights strapped to their heads and power wash under cover of darkness to try to mitigate and avoid a nasty flash fire, which we fully expect will happen eventually.

Then look at their delivery drivers, who double park all over the neighborhood with engines idling waiting for delivery instructions.

Then look at their sidewalk staging – they block the sidewalk for pedestrians most of the day.

Then look at how they block the whole street preventing anyone from driving or cycling past, for hours often.

The city has done very little to really stop these and many more violations of health, environmental, safety, tree care, street care…  etc.  This despite literally 100’s of complaints.

We believe the next step is to go viral with all the pictures and video of their practices.  Industrial food like their is gross anyway and hurts the city’s small restaurants.

Bottom line: the munchery is douchery.

This is all true!

I live on that block and drive a slightly larger vehicle. I literally can’t fit down that road, because all of their trucks are blocking traffic.

It’s a huge traffic hazard because it forces that street into a one-lane road, so you have to peer ahead and negotiate with whatever oncoming traffic is coming.

And I’ll +1 on the original poster’s comments that they’re forever hanging out and blocking the sidewalk then, at the end of the night, leaving a ton of rotting food trash on the curb.

Munchery is a horrible tenant and presence on this block.

(Jack, I suspect if you post up discreetly on this block and spend a day watching all of this, you’ll uncover enough violations to make it worth your time. Bring a camera.)

Or maybe the City’s come out and looked at all of your complaints and decided you’re a fucking loon and that they have better things to do than give you the attention life has clearly denied you. You know who else does this? EVERY FUCKING GROCERY STORE IN TOWN. Try living across the street from Smart & Final and see what their 18 wheelers do at 3AM when DPT’s off duty. 

Anyone who thinks this street is a clean, quiet place where puppies run free and kids play street hockey has probably never been stabbed walking down it. 

You’re lost, SFGate is over there.

No Shit.  When did these d-bags start migrating over here.

Isn’t there a UPS truck yard like a few feet away from this revolting hobo toilet neighborhood dozens of auto body shops have called home for several decades you’re romatically involved with? Last I checked they were racking up millions of dollars worth of parking tickets every single year and I don’t see a whole lot of ineffectual indignation about that particular “pyramid scheme” raging around the blogosphere. Let’s all rally together and put a stop to their clearly illegal business practices and then we can all pay $5,000 to have our monthly shipment of adult diapers delivered from Amazon while we enjoy shitting our pants in a perfect city where restaurant garbage cans don’t stink and parking laws are anything more significant than a means of collecting rent on land they haven’t figured out how to sell yet.

This is so not news.

It’s such an outrage that private entities can take advantage of a scarce public resource like this. The city should devise a program by which drivers would pay money to use this space for an interval of time - oh wait…

You fucking asshole. THIS IS MY SHIT.

Was that also your shit I saw on the sidewalk across the street from the Munchery?  That was some XXL human feces right there, congrats!

People pooping badly!

Good job, hopefully the Chronicle picks this up 

was totally unaware of this business. impressive lineup of chefs. can’t wait to try it. thanks!

Seriously, that’s your takeaway? “This business is hurting the Mission and its residents—I have to patronize it right away, before they fix anything!”

It really is an excellent service! I recommend waiting until like 6:30pm to get the $5 deals… stock up for the week yo!

Fuck the Mission. You entitled douches think the entire city revolves around you. 

The really do have some delicious stuff in their rotation - plus they’re always on time and you can score some good deals if you keep an eye out.  Love Munchery!

Oh look, Munchery employees! G’luck buds, gonna need it.

This is really the highest and best use of a local blog. Not just noting another outlet’s reporting, but coming up with your own. This is a perfect example (if a minor one) of capital externalizing its costs. Sadly, the world has never been outraged enough about having to carry the burden of those costs.

I just realized how much of a piece of shit the writer is. Why doesn’t anyone complain about the ILLEGAL parking of beer trucks blocking bikes lanes? I mean, all. the. time. Or MUNI buses not properly pulling into or out of a bus stop? How about PSYCHO taxi drivers? I also love seeing meter maids driving to public park parking lots to take little naps…

Perhaps the “click-baitish’ness” of it is too low?

While I appreciate your “ML ON YOUR SIDE” angle here, its still a thinly veiled attempt at demonizing people and fueling the “class division” fire.

So, hey, THANKS. Also: fuck you.

The class issues in this city are not legitimate topics?  Profit motive is the only motive?  Only critical articles aimed at things that JimmyL doesn’t like are legitimate articles and writers of all other articles are pieces of shit?  

Pour me a glass of your kool aid, it sounds delicious.

Seems like a few sfgate commenters have migrated over here in the past month or two.

How dare you.

I don’t have any Kool-Aid just yet, that’s being delivered later today by Amazon Fresh. 

Oh no Jimmy said fuck you to someone on the internet. Kill yourself please.

I just ordered Munchery… according to this article, death should follow soon thereafter.

JimmyL is a great example of someone completely missing the point.  And this isn’t his first time.

Commenting is the way to get things resolved in this goddam town. AMIRITE?

Love this article, thank you! keep up the investigation. the building  is also infested with rodents. the trash is horrible and the new “bike delivery” service takes up the whole sidewalk hurting business around it.

the building  is also infested with rodents.

I see a lot of these kinds of statements here. I have no dog in this fight, but I gotta ask: how is it, exactly, that you know this to be true?

Idling the motive engine is illegal, but running the refrigeration unit is not at least under California law. Refrigeration units run on their own power systems and are not considered to be idling. Placer county and Sacramento are examples of places with local restrictions on refrigeration units.

This isn’t even the biggest issue. The general filth they have brought to our neighborhood. They market themselves as some healthy local company and use the cheapest products possible. The whole kitchen is nasty, I would never eat food from there. 

The whole kitchen is nasty […]

How, exactly, do you know this to be true? Not saying that I don’t believe you, but I am sincerely interested to know how someone from the outside would have this knowledge. 

I would know this because I am friends with the owners and have been in the building several times. I have seem all the rodents you’ve brought into the space. They’ve ruined every party of the building they have access too.  

Hey, man - rats have a right to party too

Especially when they are named Jimmy L.

Thanks for the info. I work right by here and often wondered what all those trucks were doing. And yes, they seem to be constantly idlling, but never really going any where. 

Likewise, thanks for the article.  I was also wondering what the hell they were doing there.

They share the building (which previously Weston Wear) with a dog boarding and daycare operation belonging to the owner of the building.  The “separation” between food production and the dog boarding is practically nil.  The whole thing is a hot felching mess.

The “separation” between food production and the dog boarding is practically nil. 

How, exactly, do you know this to be true? Not saying that I don’t believe you, but I am sincerely interested to know how someone from the outside would have this knowledge.

Food company has $28 million makes it its mission to piss of its neighbors by having 4 diesel-spewing trucks parked outside because they’re too cheap to buy a refrigerator.

Makes total sense.

Damn, thanks for reminding me about Munchery! That place is legit; just ordered some Tombo for tonight.

Maybe they can grab you a personality and some Rogaine while en route?

You expression says it all about how much you loved the ptomaine, Tombo.

there are only two rights that are self evident - the right to consume and the right to profit

I ordered from Munchery once.  Never again. 

Also - the food wasn’t that great anyway.  Small portions.

I don’t think some of the posts here are entirely accurate.  I noticed the trucks this month after I heard that Munchery may be moving the space.  My guess is that some equipment (maybe freezer??) is being moved to their new space so the trucks are a stop-gap measure.

The trucks showed up the same time that Munchery stopped allowing pick-ups from this site (which is why I would walk over). 

So, are you saying that the operators of Mr. Muggles owns the building?  I didn’t know that and will check to see if the statement is accurate.

Hey SciLaw, as a douchery manager, maybe you should wake up from your naps occasionally and actually pay attention to what is happening on your watch.  Also note however that bad management tends to extend to little things like GAAP.  Ask your bosses about that one.  That way they will fire you and you will owe me in the long run.

Errrr ok, don’t let the facts get the way in class-warfare.   I could give a rat’s ass about munchery’s management since I only buy their dinners if I have the $10 voucher.  With that being said, pretending that this problem has been around more than a month is douchebag “journalism”.

What a bunch of whiners (or shall I say weiners) … for a city that preaches about being tolerant, what about this guy who started and built his business on his own!  This is not Yahoo, Google or Fackbook - he didn’t start with $100M or even $10B … but with his own sweet and effort.  So what if they use refrigerated trucks at times to store meals, what an amazing problem to have - his business is growing, he is employing people (what a concept) and I am certain he is looking other space to grow his business.  Don’t be surprised if he chooses a location OUTSIDE of San Francisco … if I were in his shoes I would, who wants to deal with people that don’t want you around!

I often wonder what people like the editor and others who write comments to crap articles like this do during the day?  Well now I know … looking for a chink in someone’s lifetime of work armor … why wouldn’t you attempt to ask the owner first, get his view and write a balanced story?  The one line from the owner flatly denies your presumpton, but instead you call him a liar … you insinuate that all business people are liars, etc.  Too bad - hard working “capitalists” like this man actually hire people in your neighborhood to work, they pay taxes so you can have police and fire … but fuck them for making work happen, you don’t need him … I bet you feel like a bolshevik or something, unfortunately Business in the US is not the enemy, it is narrow minded simpleton pieces of shit like the one you see in the mirror every morning …

Just another reason I used to live in SF … enjoy you soda free, $15/hour, bike nazi, no corporate allowed city life … loser.

Haha, a whiny wench whining about whiners. Priceless! You can’t make this up. Yeah, clearly you left here and couldn’t hack it. But you still visit local blogs….move on!

Whatev’s mutha fucka!

Hey awesome! Hopefully this could make more jackasses like you leave and move to LA or back to NYC where this company is expanding then. Better yet can you just suck on their exhaust please?

Won’t anybody think of the business men??

Don’t ever dare to be successful in san francisco.

Nah, it’s more “don’t be a dick” but you probably couldn’t comprehend that.

“…what about this guy who started and built his business on his own!”

“So what if they use refrigerated trucks at times to store meals, what an amazing problem to have”

It’s not really on his own and an amazing problem to have if he’s illegally using public space and breaking pollution laws. Sounds more like a reckless business strategy that’s become a public neusance. True, SF is not the place to blatently disreguard rules and neighborhoods in the name of “progress”. We would like to keep it that way.  

I applied for a job there….someone should report them to the INS.

Worried at all, consumers, that a company that seems to care so little about its neighbors really cares about the quality of its food?  



Jimmy L: 

Shut the fuck up.  Beer trucks stay double parked for as long as it takes to put a stack of cases in a store  refrigerator.  Your other examples of illegal parking are hilarious, bro.  Keep reaching.

Damn Capitalism:

Oh no…poor business people.  Much oppressed.  Eat my ass.  You’re clearly not from here.  Nice fantasy backstory.  Say hello to your friends back home when your career dries up.


Fuck you.  Go ahead and leave.  You will not be missed.  As soon as you’re gone, some other POS will pop up and be just as shitty of a neighbor as you.

Thanks for the well researched and well said article. I thought us from the building in the picture were the only ones complaining but now I realize that the outrage extends beyond.

The epitome of entitlement:

Buy overpriced lofts in the part of the mission zoned as light industrial and call it Pac Heights.

The proper term for this sort of thing is “Growth Hacking”.

I got one in the same area.  What’s up with Scoot?

I mean, I kind of like to idea of rental scooters scattered around the city.  But they’re taking up several parking spaces on my block and the next one up.

Anyone know what they’re doing?  The scooters are parked way too carefully to be random users and the spots they end up in are very… predictable.

Is there a permit for this sort of thing I’m not aware of or are they just “Growth Hacking”?

I believe Scoot is zipcar for scooters. But they advertise as requiring no seperate license, so it’ll be interesting to see what will happen when some young scoot enthusiast hits a pedestrian, or gets killed himself.

This is excellent reporting, thank you much for exposing this ridiculousness.

Not to mention that driving down this block of Alabama is now impossible, and on a bike is quite dangerous.  Cars are doing all sorts of unsafe maneuvers because these trucks take up ⅓ of the width of the street.

Time to get a car. Are you homeless??

Honestly after working (yep, tech) all day I like to order what is basically an upscale TV dinner. I don’t cook, I don’t “do” art I am not political, I didn’t move here to be in San Fran. I am doing a job for really good money and when it’s over I will go away and be replaced by someone else who does not really give a shit about this city. The end.

No please tell us more that was exciting.

Save us all some grief and leave now, maybe? Telecommute? Because if that’s how you feel about being here, we really don’t give a shit about having you around either, and would rather you just go now. And take your bros with you.

Wait, you have to heat the food once it’s delivered? Try Spoonrocket. Heating is for chumps.

I think they are moving into the old “Dales Auto Repair” on Utah at 17th

And today the trucks are gone.

Munchery outgrew their space months ago and this move has likely been in the works for a while, but perhaps this article helped speed things up a litle bit? In any event, thank you JM and UA for reporting on the problem.

Now to tackle the bullshit clusterfuck of trucks (Flour and Water, Trick Dog, Salumeria, Central Kitchen) parked and idling  on 20th Street. That’s my new band name by the way: “Clusterfuck of Trucks”.

work across from them for almost a year, not surprised about their shady business tactics.the outside smells like a garbage dump with rotten food all over the place.  absolutely disgusting, and you thought 16th BART was smelly

waiting for the dropbox soccer party with food being donated by munchery