Weeknight Cooking

Seamless’s Ads Are a Huge Step Backwards for the Food Movement—and Seamless

October 28, 2015

“Seamless—How New York Eats" is the tagline for the takeout company's new ads that've been cropping up on New York City buses, bus stops, subways, and buildings. In a punchy design that echoes old school New York restaurant typography are pithy slogans like "Avoid cooking like you avoid Times Square,” “Cooking is so Jersey,” and “Cook when you’re dead or living in Westchester.”

  

They’re funny. They go for the jugular. Their premise is simple:

Cooking = eating with effort = :(

Seamless = eating with ease = :)

 

These equations are flawed. Seamless's ads inspired me to play dirty, too, because, contrary to Seamless's opinions, cooking can be cool. Risqué even. (Just look at Dale Talde.) Here are some slogans I was thinking about—what do you think?

Takeout is so collegiate, bro.

Takeout never got you laid—cooking did.

Adam Sachs never impressed a date with takeout.

You don’t have to tip when you make the meal.

What would your mother think?

Special sauce you can rely on.

Styrofoam boxes aren't the new Le Creuset. 

Greasy noodles freeze well (jk they don't keep).

Maybe it’s time to leave the house. 

And for the tagline:

Cooking: How the World Eats

It's not that I'm against takeout. I eat it. I use Seamless. I appreciate its existence many an exhausted night and frenzied day. That said, it’s probably still not surprising that I’m not the biggest fan of their new ads. The thing is, just because takeout is good doesn’t mean cooking has to be bad (or frumpy, or unnecessary, or difficult).

I don’t think the merits of cooking need to be expounded to the audience of Food52, but for those who can get behind these ads, here’s a short lowdown of why cooking is good—besides the fact that you get to eat:

  • You’ll know at least a little more about where your food and ingredients come from.
  • Similarly, you can control the ingredients that go into your food, like salt, MSG, and oil.
  • You can eat exactly what you want. Does your takeout burrito have the sour cream that you requested be left off? What a bummer.
  • Cooking can be a therapy, a necessary pause.
  • You learn new skills  through cooking and experimenting in the kitchen.
  • And so do your kids. And they can pick up valuable lessons there, too.
  • Touching your food—interacting with it closely and seeing how it comes to be a finished dish from raw ingredients—fosters curiosity. Being curious is important!
  • Making food gives you a stake in it—so you value it, respect it.
  • Home-cooked food can be cost effective.
  • Home-cooked food is hot upon eating.
  • Home-cooked food doesn’t come in disposable containers.
  • Home-cooked food just tastes better?
  • And so on.

Seamless’s ads cold-shoulder all these values. (Seamless, you’re so cool—do you live in Brooklyn?) But another reason cooking is good for Seamless (and for us) is because it’s required for takeout to exist—not to mention taste good. It’s not in Seamless’s interest to make cooking appear bad. 

Without cooking, customers and potential customers of Seamless will value food and the people who make it less—to the point where they may not want to pay the minimums and delivery fees to get their food delivered. Someone has to grow, harvest, pack, transport, unload, sell, buy, and cook the food before it gets delivered to doorsteps. Belittling this process has never benefited anyone—ever. History has shown us many times over what happens when we don’t pay attention to how our food gets to our table. 

Cooking means we can eat, but it also fosters curiosity about our food system, which makes us ask questions, which makes the process better. That’s why schools have vegetable gardens. And it's why McDonald’s is now using eggs from cage-free hens. Anyone who works in food needs to maintain its importance; if we don’t, we’ll be out of jobs—and a planet. So even if people don’t want to cook (that’s us, too, sometimes!), we have to respect the process if we want people to pay attention—and money—for it. 

Ads by BBH New York; images by James Ransom.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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37 Comments

beejay45 November 3, 2015
Don't live in their area, so I've not personally seen the ads. Sounds like they're aimed at youngish people who don't have the confidence to buck the "cooking is so Jersey" shaming or else those who think that using these services instead of actually preparing food makes them one of the cool kids.<br /><br />No reflection on "youngish" folks, just doesn't sound like they're aiming at the 40+, established crowd, who may actually be more their target market with their greater disposable income. Eh. Stupid campaign, IMO.<br /><br />Thanks for the rant. ;)
 
Tamio888 November 2, 2015
The real core sentiment of these ads is that 'eating out' is cool and hip. It is a simple reflection of the current elitism of the insider that pervades the current restaurant/chef/food blog culture.<br />I'm not so offended because I have no interest in sharing meal space with the targeted audience for these ads.<br />Let them go to their $250 omakase dinners, drink their $19 cocktails, and stand in line for an hour for a fried chicken sandwich.<br />I will be at home, throwing stuff together for friends and family, sharing, laughing, talking, and touching - and much happier for it.
 
Smaug October 30, 2015
The willingness of the American people to hand over their lives to be lived by others is astonishing. Sorry people, but ultimately your life is about eating, sleeping and reproducing, like every other species on earth, however much society may glorify the finding of a lucrative role in the corporate world. Yet people somehow find it shameful, or at least declasse, to work on their homes and gardens, prepare their own food etc. If the best we can do with our abilities is figure out ways to sell each other ever more STUFF, we are indeed lost.
 
Jovan October 30, 2015
I'm so glad we addressed those ads. LOVE this article.
 
Miachel B. October 29, 2015
YES. They are infuriating. I completely agree.
 
Mei C. October 29, 2015
Awesome, Ali! I hate those ads too--and I'm so glad you put in to words what so many of us are thinking. xx
 
Kate B. October 28, 2015
Amen! Thank you so much for this.
 
ariel A. October 28, 2015
PREACH
 
Jan W. October 28, 2015
As much as I love these slogans and zinging Seamless/GrubHub, unfortunately getting more New Yorkers to cook more is like trying to convince the French to give up eating bread at every meal - it's going to be harder than pulling teeth. I'm just glad that I can continue to participate in the preaching at the Food52 choir - this website is such a fantastic resource that the fact of its existence is enough to have hope. Let's just celebrate every person who decides to cook rather than order out as a small victory. <br /><br />P.S. I do order from Seamless at times, but make sure sure to tip the delivery person with cash because I've been told that Seamless/GrubHub takes a fee out of gratuities too, which is probably the most egregious practice of theirs.
 
Author Comment
Ali S. October 28, 2015
Preach! I'm not asking Seamless to inspire people to cook (that's our job over here at Food52)—I just ask that they acknowledge cooking as the root of how we eat (and therefore their business).
 
Cara E. October 28, 2015
Yes! The one that got me was "You don't drive anymore, why cook anymore?" I adore driving to the grocery store so I can buy more food to cook.
 
Alex W. October 28, 2015
Totally agree with you Ali! And, if you really must get take out, please, please, please don't use Seamless or Delivery.com or GrubHub or any of the other online ordering services. So many small and local restaurants are shackled to these online ordering services because they end up generating a huge percentage of the restaurant's business but then also charge fees to the restaurant for using their service. If they drop the service, they lose the business—so many people only order take-out from places that are listed on Seamless—but if they stay they also end up losing a considerable amount of money with each online order. <br /><br />If you need to order take-out and you care at all about your community, pick up your phone, call in your order, get off your butt, walk to the restaurant, and pay for your food. These restaurants are not machines run by robots churning out food. They are run by people with faces that can smile and hands that can wave. They're also probably run by your neighbors but you won't know it if you never leave your house.
 
Alex W. October 28, 2015
More about Seamless's hold on NYC restaurants: http://www.wnyc.org/story/squeezed-seamless-restaurants-look-other-paths-online/
 
Kenzi W. October 28, 2015
Clapping over here.
 
ChefJune October 28, 2015
I LOVE your slogans! I saw those signs on the subway and was extremely turned off/offended. Personally, I would rather come home and scramble some eggs than order takeout- if I don't feel like cooking. Cooking is relaxing for me at the end of most stressful days. Besides,I so dislike snarky, and I think their slogans define that.
 
IlovePhilly October 28, 2015
Yes! I love your response. Now, for someone to design the posters and get them up in the shop!
 
Brooke B. October 28, 2015
Love this. And those slogans you came up with? 100% perfect response. My personal favorite: "Takeout never got you laid." Truth.
 
Ryan P. October 28, 2015
ahem *kicks ali under the table*
 
amysarah October 28, 2015
I'd only amend one thing - your points apply to almost everyone who cooks at home - to eat well on a budget (especially to feed a family,) for nutritional reasons, for love of cooking, etc. No need to be part of a movement for these common sense reasons to ring true, as they have since long before this dopey ad campaign. (Re the NJ and Westchester digs - way too trite to be clever. Also stupid.)
 
susan G. October 28, 2015
While you have made and overmade the case for cooking, I applaud every word of it. <br />Add to your reasons: eating out and take out more often than occasionally make me gain weight!
 
Samantha W. October 28, 2015
Your grumbles are in good company. Thank you for writing this!
 
Michael H. October 28, 2015
Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone in silently screaming at these ads in the subway!
 
Hannah W. October 28, 2015
A big YES to this article. Thank you Ali for voicing this so perfectly!
 
Olivia B. October 28, 2015
Slow.... clap.