What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“Any Persons by sending, may be supplied with Victuals abroad.”
When she moved to a new location in the fall of 1769, Mrs. Brock ran an advertisement to inform prospective patrons that she now operated an inn and restaurant at “the commodious new Brick House, near the City-Hall” in New York. She promoted various amenities, indicating that the house “was lately improved by the Widow Graham.” In addition to the comfortable surroundings, she provided “the very best of neat Wines and other Liquors.” She also served “Dinners” between noon and three o’clock.
Yet readers did not have to stay at Brock’s inn or dine in her restaurant in order to enjoy the meals she provided. In a brief nota bene, she advised, “Any Persons by sending, may be supplied with Victuals abroad from 12 to 3 o’Clock.” In other words, Brock offered take out and perhaps even delivery. What could be more convenient for busy New Yorkers who did not have the time to prepare their own meals or dine at Brock’s “commodious new Brick House” in the middle of the day?
The advertisement does not specify the extent of Brock’s services. What did she mean with the phrase “by sending” in the nota bene? Did she mean sending a messenger with an order who would then carry the food back to the customer? That qualified as the eighteenth-century equivalent of take-out food. Or, did she mean sending an order in advance and depending on someone employed by Brock to deliver the “Victuals” later? Brock did not clearly indicate if the latter was an option, though she and her customers likely worked out the particulars as they began placing orders.
Even if Brock limited this service to take-out food, she still marketed convenience to eighteenth-century consumers. She identified an opportunity to augment the business she did in the dining room at her inn and restaurant by feeding patrons who did not visit in person. Take-out and delivery became centerpieces of business models and marketing campaigns for many in the restaurant industry in the twentieth century, but those conveniences were not inventions or innovations of that era. Such services were already in place in the colonies prior to the American Revolution.