There are dozens of new startups predicated on giving the consumer what he doesn’t even know he needs: a single-serving of freshly squeezed juice, a WiFi weight scale. And there are food delivery services going beyond the standard digitally-enabled delivery — Postmates is predicated on delivering from restaurants that don’t even deliver, so that you will never be left wanting for the right kind of burger or sushi roll. There is choice all around us, whether or not we need it. But a choice denied to me is the single Buffalo wing.
You can already order a none pizza with left beef. You can order a 48 oz. Porterhouse for two, to congeal in some Styrofoam container as it speeds toward you. So why can’t I order a single buffalo wing? Why must I scan the six-wing options at $4.49, $5.49, $6.99 when I would pay as much as $1.50 for a solo bony tender, presented to me on a bed of artificial grass inside a plastic container normally used to hold prom corsages?
Eating wings is a social activity. They’re meant to be consumed by the dozen, Bud Light in hand and sporting event on the television screen, three-to-five of your best pals and/or work acquaintances at the table. One does not prepare wings at home to be eaten alone in front of the Netflix. Still: Every now and then, I get the craving for a single wing. The sense memory of so many wings eaten before floods my brain, and I want nothing more but to cleave meat from bone, lick tang from fingers until I’m forced to admit I need to wash my hands. But only once; once is enough.
Food services increasingly advertise on the promise of disconnecting from societal interaction. Click a few buttons on our well-designed digital menus, and you’ll never again suffer the embarrassment of a weak connection, the annoyed order-taker on the line repeating “What?” until your gluten-free request comes loud and clear. Delivery minimums drop regularly, so I don’t have to admit I’m a sad city-dweller ordering for one, not two. The algorithm recommends me new items based on what I’ve eaten before, so I don’t have to think about it very hard when I order. (Joke’s on them — I agonize about it anyways.) And yet I cannot divide the wing order by six, in order to get what I really want.
This will change, in time. The stock price of GrubHub, Seamless’ parent company, has nearly quadrupled since its 2014 IPO. The market is built on servicing the customer’s needs, no matter how specific or unreasonable. Imagine a food service startup that cuts deals with restaurants to deliver half or quarter-orders of its offerings, or one that delivers small items by drone, or one where a laid-off journalist zips over on his e-bike to spoil my ass with the aesthetic experience of my single wing in its own somewhat-wasteful self-contained package. Someone is going to figure this out, if not Seamless.
Listen to an interview with Jeremy Gordon for more thoughts on the dream of a single wing on The Outline World Dispatch.
In the summer of 2012 my friends and I were regulars at The Lion Head, a Chicago bar where the walls were pasted over with autographed photos of local athletes and non-autographed photos of Rihanna, and where every Friday there was an all-you-can-eat wings special for the price of one discounted happy hour drink. I assure you it was not as glamorous as it sounds. Seven-to-ten twentysomethings with nothing better to do, all of us still blessed with our collegiate metabolisms. Over those few months we collectively consumed somewhere in the hundreds, if not the low thousands, of wings.
Those days of all-you-can eat wing buffets are over. Those friends don’t collectively hang out anymore, and we’re scattered across the country. My body is getting too shitty to shovel down pounds of D-grade meat with abandon; a proper wing binge would be the same as pumping all that gleaming sauce right into my femoral artery. But a single wing, to remind me of what I once had for just a few seconds? I want this, all of the time.
Is it better than ordering six wings? If you’re in the mood, absolutely.
Will it replace ordering six wings? Probably not, but it would be a worthy option.