Wonder puts NJ service on hold amid transition to brick-and-mortar concept (slideshow)

Kimberly Redmond//April 18, 2023//

Wonder puts NJ service on hold amid transition to brick-and-mortar concept (slideshow)

Kimberly Redmond//April 18, 2023//

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Even with changes in the mix, you still won’t wonder what’s for dinner.

Wonder Group, a Cranford-based startup known for its network of van-based kitchens that cook up meals outside of customers’ homes, is putting its services in New Jersey on pause while it transitions to a new business strategy, according to a company spokesman.

The change – which goes into effect April 23 – is part of the app-based venture’s plan to shift to a more conventional and less expensive model that involves phasing out its fleet of mobile kitchens and replacing them with physical locations that offer delivery, pick-up and some dine-in options from restaurants that Wonder has licensing deals with.

After debuting its brick-and-mortar concept on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in February, Wonder expects to open its first New Jersey spot in Westfield, along with a second location in New York City in Chelsea, the spokesman said.

Both openings are scheduled for this summer.

A company spokesman told NJBIZ, “These new physical locations are able to serve 12-plus restaurants, all out of one kitchen, utilizing the same technology and equipment that Wonder’s mobile restaurants relied on.”

“Customers can expect even faster delivery times, more consistent order accuracy and hotter food through these new offerings – and the best part is that you’ll now be able to order from multiple restaurants in a single order,” he said.

Announcing the new direction in January, Wonder Chief Executive Officer and founder Marc Lore said the company is aiming to operate up to 10 locations in Union, Essex and Bergen counties in New Jersey, as well as Westchester County in New York.

After a pilot period last year in Westfield, Wonder grew to serve more than 70 towns across New Jersey, in addition to a handful in Westchester County, and employed more than 1,300 workers.

Over the next two years, Wonder had planned to expand its business across the Northeast before a nationwide rollout. However, following the strategy shift, Wonder instead began phasing out its vans and cut 400 jobs.

In January, Lore said, “As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that keeping an open-mind and relentlessly challenging your assumptions is one of the most powerful tools to have at your disposal. You have to be willing to learn, everyday – analyzing past performances, listening to new signals and adjusting quickly to that new information.”

“I knew there would be new opportunities to pursue, but also tough choices to make. Our mobile restaurant business has taught us enormously valuable insights, which now, has uncovered an even bigger opportunity for us to scale in a more capital-efficient way,” he said.