Sunny-side soup, pleaseMothers have always said, "Eat your breakfast!" That is easy enough when you actually have a mother who gets up at dawn to cook breakfast for the family.
"I used to get up at six o'clock in the morning to prepare breakfast for my husband who leaves home for work at seven," recalled Choi Sun-young, 31, who works in marketing at P&G Korea. Like most Korean men, Ms. Choi's 33-year-old husband was used to waking up to a full table of breakfast complete with soup, rice, kimchi and other fresh side dishes prepared by his mother.
Ms. Choi, who had never set foot inside a kitchen before getting married, struggled for five years to get breakfast ready on time. "I am not an early riser and it was a daily battle to get rice and soup on the table," she said. Toast or cereal was not an option for the couple, who believe that they need to have rice to kick off the day. They even experimented with having frozen rice cakes for breakfast. That is, Ms. Choi would take out slices of frozen rice cake from the freezer, put them in the microwave, and -- voila -- "rice" for breakfast. That experiment, however, lasted only briefly. "It just was not the same as a bowl of hot soup and rice," she said.
About two months ago, Ms. Choi made a life-changing decision: She sought the services of a breakfast delivery company. Now, a special container holding the soup-of-the-day is waiting at her door when she opens it to pick up the newspaper. "There is no rush in the mornings. All I need to do now is switch on the rice cooker, heat the soup and set the table with the side dishes that my mother-in-law packs for me when I go to pick up our son for the weekend," she said.
Replacing thousands of Ms. Chois in the kitchen are cooks at breakfast service companies such as Myungga who toil by the stove late at night to get the next day's order prepared. Founded in 2001, the company has 15 people working in its kitchen in Bangi-dong, southeastern Seoul, preparing breakfast for about 2,500 customers. "We promise delivery to all our customers by 6 a.m.," said Rho Il-ho, manager at Myungga. Meals that are shipped out in refrigerated trucks before midnight are put into special thermal bags that hang on customers' door handles. The company currently offers a selection of three different items Monday to Friday: rice ball and soup; porridge; and soup for two or four persons. While breakfasts can be delivered to both homes and offices, home delivery is the most popular, according to Mr. Rho.
Breakfast delivered to the desk is a hit among office workers who live alone or have a long commute in the morning. "I got tired of eating at the office cafeteria," said Mr. Moon Dae-won, a 32-year-old single man working in Yeouido, Seoul. For more than a year, he has been having his breakfast delivered to the office by 8:30 a.m.
His morning office routine consists of picking up breakfast from the desk, eating it in the lounge area by the coffee vending machine, and heading back to the desk to start the day on a full stomach.
The monthly menu consists of a variety of gimbap and sandwiches. As for the taste, Mr. Moon said, "At 1,700 won a day, it is an O.K. deal. You can't ask for too much at that price."
Ms. Choi at P&G feels that the convenience more than makes up for the rather bland taste of the prepared soup. Her husband, on the other hand, lets her know that he misses home-made soup, the soup of his childhood memories.
"I usually put extra spices and seasoning to give the soup a fuller taste but my husband grumbles every morning," she said. "He just does not know that a lot of time and effort goes into getting a meal ready, something which I, as a full-time career woman, would like to avoid as much as possible," she said.
Ms. Choi is not alone in seeking convenience and efficiency when it comes to feeding the family. "Most of my working friends who do not have domestic help use the breakfast delivery service," she said. In fact, a local consulting firm that offers advice on starting up new businesses estimates that the breakfast delivery service is a 350 billion won ($300 million) market.
Despite her husband's complaints, Ms. Choi is determined to stay the course. Ever hopeful that she may find a delivered breakfast that her husband will find satisfactory, Ms. Choi regularly browses the Internet, leafs through women's magazines for new breakfast services, and asks her colleagues for recommendations. "It may take a bit of shopping around to hit on the right one," she said. "But I really cannot imagine going back to the old routine."
The following is a list of breakfast delivery services:
Gookmorning (www.gookmorning.co.kr) prepares freshly cooked Korean soup packaged in aluminum bags to the door. Deliveries are made after midnight. A bag of soup costs 2,400 won for two-servings and 3,500 won for four-servings. More gourmet offerings are available for 5,800 won. (Tel.: 080-907-9254)
Myungga (www.myungga.net) offers a choice of rice and soup set, porridge or soup. Deliveries are made by 6 a.m. The meal is placed inside a thermal pouch at the customer's door to ensure freshness. Prices range from 2,800 won to 4,400 won per meal. (Tel.: 1577-7482)
Jochan (www.jochan.net) is aimed primarily at office delivery. For 1,700 won per meal, a variety of gimbap, rice balls and sandwiches are delivered to the desk. You can specify delivery time, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Tel.: 02-2696-5611)
Fruitime (www.fruitme.com) delivers an assortment of cut-fruits to offices and homes. Delivered between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., each vacuum-packed fruit tray holds a mix of 3-4 fresh fruits. Prices range from 35,000 won a month (deliveries are made Monday through Friday) to 58,000 won a month, depending on the type of fruit and serving size. (Tel.: 02-2040-6760)
People in the Incheon area can get sandwiches from the Morning Bakery (www.morningbakery.net). Home deliveries are made before 7 a.m. while office deliveries are made by 8:30 a.m. 40, 000 won per 20 days, Monday through Friday. Milk or canned coffee can be ordered for an additional 500 won per day. (Tel.: 050-5555-0045)
by Kim Hoo-ran