Human invention is driven by a desire for greater efficiency. Sure, it started off simple enough—consider the simple elegance of the wheel! But not all gains in efficiency are created equal. Some inventions are designed to solve a hyper-specific quandary, one that’s utterly inconsequential but also undeniable. And for the millions who struggle with holding their concessions at public events, the Grub Tub is one such invention.
I was first introduced to the Grub Tub on social media: an image of xiaolongbao (steamed buns) in a plastic bowl perched atop a cup of soda. The bowl and cup had been combined into one super-vessel, a straw jutting clean through the center. The viral tweet, sent out by a Twitter user from Shenzhen, China, identified the combo meal as being an innovation from Chongqing. The replies to the tweet are full of wide-eyed amazement, with one user even proclaiming that the inventor deserved a Nobel Prize.
I had never seen this type of food container, and I had to learn more. The Grub Tub was launched In 2016 by the Southern California–based custom product designers RP & Associates. The conception of this idea is rooted in the stadium food experience. According to COO Omar Khalid, RP’s CEO Richard Pola was at a baseball game when he found himself with a problem. He’d gotten food and a drink from the concessions stand, and the purchases left him with his hands full. Putting a bowl on top of the drink freed up a hand to actually eat and drink.
While this might sound like a hedonistic problem, there’s more utility than meets the eye. RP & Associates product-tested a tub for pretzel chain Auntie Anne’s.
Philips 3200 Series Espresso Machine With Milk Frother
The one you've waited for
This machine brews espresso, espresso lungo, americano, and regular coffee, as well as steams milk and dispenses plain old hot water.
“That’s where utility becomes obvious,” Khalid told The Takeout. “Auntie Anne’s, they’re mainly at walking venues, whether that’s an airport or the mall… they found that people were interested in it because they have bags in their other hand, or a stroller, and with this they could conveniently carry all of it.”
Even beyond that, as a vessel for street food, the Grub Tub makes complete sense. When asked about the viral Chinese tweet of xiaolongbao and cola, Marketing & Technology Director Luka Kovacevic said it makes sense. “Whether it was Japan or China or Korea, when it comes to street food, they’re on the next level.”
The Takeout was able to receive a line of Grub Tub products to test the merits of this innovative product. Below are my findings from a day spent eating every meal out of a tub.
Breakfast: Grub Tub cereal and milk
As a kid my breakfast consisted of half a granola bar, but TV ads and their images of a “balanced breakfast” made me think I was supposed to be slamming cereal, eggs, a waffle, water, coffee, juice, and a banana before heading to school in the morning. Beyond the obvious problems with this (who has the time??), I always had a spatial issue with this presentation. Too many cups, bowls, and plates.
So for my first Grub Tub meal I wanted to combine two classics. I put cereal and milk in the top bowl and coffee in the cup below. We’re starting off slow here. While I don’t commute to the office, I wanted to test out if I could truly have my breakfast on the go. Could this device endure a morning’s commute intact? If so, that would have big implications. I loaded up into the car and tried to eat my cereal while driving.
Rush hour traffic in Los Angeles is terrible, but I felt good pulling out into the morning fray. The long lines of cars gave me time to eat while the car was at a standstill. That being said, the herky-jerky nature of traffic was unnerving; my swaying milk tumbled to and fro like waves o’er the high seas. This was my own fault for overloading the top bowl.
Reader, take heed before you do what I did. I am a great driver, but based on my experience on the road, the rest of you are not. If you crash into someone while enjoying your Grub Tub, milk, wet cereal, and coffee will get all over you.
I reached “work” (an office park I randomly picked out on Google Maps), turned the car around, and headed back home to start work.
Lunch: Grub Tub spaghetti and red sauce
Something exciting about the Grub Tub is that it provides the opportunity to deconstruct your dishes. One could theoretically separate a food into its component dry parts (eaten with hands/utensils) and wet parts (slurped). What about Nacho chips in the bowl and liquid cheese in the cup? Roasted turkey in the bowl and mashed potatoes in the cup? The possibilities are clearly wide-ranging and could break open paradigms about what we think a meal is and how it can look.
For lunch I decided on a simple classic, reimagined: I cooked up some spaghetti, prepped a red sauce, and divided them into bowl and cup, respectively.
It’s a striking image. Like the pasta has been killed and drained of its blood. I was nervous to drink a tomato sauce through a straw, because my brain has never known it that way.
It turns out that I don’t like drinking sauce through a straw. Bad decision; it made me gag. But I persevered and ate it all, for Grub Tub journalism. There really isn’t any reason you’d need to separate pasta and sauce. It doesn’t conserve space and it doesn’t make either half of the equation more interesting. It wasn’t fun to eat, and it wasn’t any more efficient—the two attributes the Grub Tub promises. But that’s my bad.
Dinner: Grub Tub burger and fries
For dinner, I wanted to see how the Grub Tub would fare in a more social setting. Luckily, I had friends in from out of town and had a reason to celebrate, so I packed my plasticware and headed to a nice restaurant. When our food and drinks came, I simply transferred them to my Grub Tub. Sure, people had questions. The Grub Tub is a conversation starter! Plus the tub worked perfectly as a toasting device. Cheers.
Used for its true purpose, the tub worked great. I wouldn’t advise bringing one to a restaurant, unless you want confused and dirty looks from employees. But still, it got the job done.
The Grub Tub is most useful in a stadium setting, or at the mall, or at a street festival. But what remains exciting to me is the potential for other Grub Tub applications. It is so fun to be able to reimagine what a meal can be, and the tub is a great invention for thinking outside the box. So if you see one at a ballgame, maybe pick it up and keep it for future experimentation! There will always be new ways to eat the same old foods.