Australia has welcomed a new food delivery service, FoodByUs, where home cooks – not chefs – are the ones preparing meals. Co-founder, Ben Lipschitz, spoke with Hospitality about the concept’s point of difference, how it ensures food safety, and why it’s the Airbnb of the foodservice industry.
After receiving a $2 million investment, the concept launched in late August and is the brainchild of Lipschitz, Menulog co-founder Gary Munitz and Tim Chandler, ex-Menulog lead developer.
FoodByUs allows consumers to order meals or snacks prepared by home cooks, and either pick it up from their house, or have it delivered for an additional $5.
Lipschitz said consumers need not be concerned about the fact that the meals aren’t prepared in a commercial kitchen.
“Food safety is taken very seriously at FoodByUs. There’s absolutely nothing illegal about selling food that’s made from your home. It’s very clearly regulated by councils and at times, state government. So we make sure that the cooks are compliant and we help them in understanding those processes,” he told Hospitality.
Depending on the food being prepared, local councils may or may not inspect the cook’s kitchen, Lipschitz said, and FoodByUs – which has recruited 80-odd cooks, including ex-chefs and MasterChef contestants – doesn’t require food to be prepared in its test kitchen before making it available to consumers.
Caramel and nuts cupcake
“There’s no need to watch them prepare it, and in fact the requirement in terms of their premises always falls back on the council, so from our perspective there would be no point having them prepare it in our kitchen.
“The application process simply involves the cook bringing their food into a tasting centre and allowing us to do a quality and taste test. At that point we also take identification so there’s accountability and then they’re able to sell food on the network. The third thing we do is that every single buyer must review their purchase; they actually can’t continue using the service or app until they’ve reviewed their purchase. That means that we’ve got live, up-to-date feedback,” he said.
FoodByUs offers both savoury and sweet dishes, and consumers are also able to search according to dietary requirements including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. Lipschitz said FoodByUs is putting the spotlight on niche products from cuisines and cultures that are underrepresented here in Australia.
“So Marianna, one of our makers, is Argentinean and a former professional cook and she makes these amazing empanadas. That’s just one example. We’ve got food from different national or ethnic backgrounds, and then obviously there are also home cooked main meals, like lasagne.”
More competition for restaurants?
The food delivery industry in Australia has seen considerable growth this year, with Deliveroo, foodora and most recently UberEATS wooing a number of high profile restaurants including Popolo, Golden Century, Mamasan, Fratelli Fresh, Lucio’s Pizzeria and Pizza Birra.
FoodByUs, Lipschitz insists, is a separate player entirely. While delivery is an option, FoodByUs isn’t targeting consumers who want restaurant-style meals then and there.
“Keep in mind that this is about local food, so in most cases pick-up is going to be your best option; the makers are nearby.
“FoodByUs really has nothing to do with those businesses (Deliveroo, foodora etc). They’re great businesses but they’re really about convenience and restaurant food; food that you want now for now. We are more about finding authentic food that is difficult to get anywhere else; in many cases you can’t get it anywhere else because these makers have no alternative channel to market. So FoodByUs is about a little bit more planning by the consumer – maybe ordering a day or two in advance.”
Feedback from the hospitality industry has been very positive, Lipschitz said, with businesses even considering using the service as a new supplier.
“Cafes or different institutions that want to differentiate themselves and offer those extra little bits and pieces are looking to FoodByUs to get some really tasty baked treats or muffins, or something like that. They don’t want to buy from some large supplier, they want to buy from a local maker who’s going to make the food fresh and feed them straight through into the caf,” he said.
“We’re not trying to take any business away from restaurants … These are home-based cooks and there’s a fair bit of forethought required from the consumer. What they’re after is an authentic home cooked meal or a niche gluten-free dish, so in that regard we really want to occupy a nice space in the consumer’s weekly planning of their meals.
“We’re not operating in the restaurant space. In my opinion, there will always be a demand for that sort of food. So I think this situation is quite different to the Uber and taxis story; I’d probably say it’s more like Airbnb and hotels – if you want that personal experience, you’re going to take an Airbnb, but there’s still always going to be a market for hotels.”