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Who doesn’t enjoy a fresh home-cooked meal? It’s a classic for a reason, but in the modern rat race, a lot of people don’t have time to make great meals at home. A lot of amateur cooks do their best, but instant meals and takeout dominate a lot of dinner tables.
There is plenty of room for a home-cooked meal market, and indeed it is beginning to emerge. There are apps that aim to bring home-cooked food to the doorstep, working kind of like Uber for at-home chefs and customers. There are other apps that allow home cooks and cottage food entrepreneurs the flexibility to sell their food from their homes, for pickup, shipping, or delivery. A few homemade food delivery and ordering apps in particular are rising to the top, and each has its own take on how to make home cooking accessible to consumers.
Shef is distinctly unlike Uber and DoorDash. This is not connecting customers with restaurants to deliver food right away. Instead, Shef aims to pair hungry people with a specific chef to order home cooked meals. This is more like a health app pairing you with a doctor.
Here’s how it works. Customers browse the home-cooked app to find a meal or chef that looks appetizing. They place an order, and then the chef sources the food. It’s important to understand that this comes with a time delay. Customers are not ordering their food and getting it in 20 minutes. Instead, they are ordering ahead, and they can get chilled meals that are ready for reheating whenever they like. Shef shines as a way to order prepared meal delivery for the week, or whatever schedule suits the customer.
Castiron is purpose-built for home-based cooks and food artisans, allowing them to pursue their culinary dreams while serving their customers in the most efficient and simple way possible. Cooks from around the world who have previously depended on messy Instagram DM ordering processes or haphazard email ordering systems have a new place to build and grow their businesses: on Castiron.
Whether you sell bagels from your home kitchen or churn out ice cream at a shared commercial kitchen, you’re welcome to sell on Castiron. Join Castiron for free here.
DishDivvy inverts the model used by Shef. Instead of delivering home cooked meals to hungry people, this app delivers hungry people to the cooks at home. DishDivvy emphasizes putting control in the hands of the cooks. The cooks set their menu, price and availability. When they are active, people can order food. The customers then pick up the food at a designated location and receive it curbside.
Foodnome is something of a side-gig app for professional cooks and chefs. The goal of this app is to make things easier for anyone trying to run a home restaurant. Foodnome makes sure that cooks are vetted and permitted, with an emphasis on that second term. If you live in an area where home restaurants are not permitted, Foodnome is not available.
That said, Foodnome allows for more options. Customers can order dine-in, or they can choose from takeout and delivery. This empowers the customers and puts more burden on the cooks, but the extra options can help with increasing traffic.
The downside to these apps is that they are limited to larger markets, leaving a large chunk of the United States unserved.
One of the reasons these apps are springing up is because being a professional home cook comes with incredible challenges. The foodservice industry is already packed with competition, and it’s not easy to succeed. Despite that, the growing desire for access to quality home-cooked meals is creating a space where cooks can succeed, if they can overcome the hurdles.
Food laws are probably the greatest challenge that home-based cooks run into. There are so many food regulations, and they exist at every level. There are more than federal and state regulations to understand and meet. Counties and even municipalities set their own rules on who can serve food and how it has to be handled. Worse, the fines for violations are intense. If you’re planning on selling home cooked food to the public, you must become familiar with your local cottage food laws and home-based business regulations.
Even after you master compliance, there is the problem known as logistics. It takes so much time and energy to run a kitchen. It doesn’t leave a lot left for finding customers and getting food to them. Are they coming and eating in your house? Are they dropping by to pick up the food? Are you delivering to them directly? The logistics of getting food to hungry bellies is not a small challenge.
Food prep is expensive. The ingredients are not cheap, especially if you’re selling a premium product or being mindful about using local ingredients. Cooking equipment is pricey. When you add logistical and regulatory costs to that, it becomes very difficult to turn a profit. One of the most common challenges in food service is finding the right price. You have to cover your costs in order to stay afloat, but you also have to compete with other food providers. It is an intense balancing act.
The good news is that your home cooked meals app will help with the primary problems. Apps automate most of the logistics that stand between a cook and their customers. This includes food delivery, finding customers, payment and so many other issues that all contribute to the overall equation.
It’s obvious that an app can make things a little easier through visibility. If you’re on a list being browsed by customers, that should improve your overall traffic, but that’s not the end of the story. Home cooked food apps offer a lot of services and features that help any cook, whether you’re a seasoned veteran or trying this for the first time. Below covers some of the major benefits of food apps, but the pros are certainly not limited to these few items.
Apps help with pricing in several ways. First, you can browse other cooks’ storefronts and see how your competitors are pricing their food. Additionally, the apps have some price controls and recommendations on them. Some of them use automated pricing tiers. Other solutions, like Castiron or the DishDivvy app, give you complete freedom when it comes to picking your prices.
The primary benefit of using an app is that it connects you with customers. You can build your profile and present your dishes. The app makes you available to a large customer base, and you can even use multiple apps to expand your visibility — you just might encounter some inventory and order tracking complications.
Home cooked food apps try to connect cooks with people who will enjoy their food. If you’re making spicy cajun, you want an audience who appreciates the spicy food. Mismatching cooks and customers leads to major problems. The apps help avoid this by carefully categorizing food and using algorithms to help customers match up with the best cooks for their tastes.
Home Cooked Food Delivery
Anyone considering using a food delivery app to be an at-home cook has plenty of reasons to ask questions and think about their concerns. It’s a fairly new concept, and there is still a lot of room for improvement across the board.
That said, the major apps are off to a great start. You can see below some of the major concerns that at-home chefs face, and you’ll also see how the apps address and resolve these concerns.
Delivering food that is appropriately hot or cold is an issue. It has to go out in insulated packaging, and you’re on a tight clock. Plus, insulated packaging costs more.
The best way to overcome this is to order in bulk, which is something you can effectively do by partnering with your home cook delivery app. They can get wholesale prices and bake that into the cost of doing business. That gives you access to good packaging that improves the delivery quality and extends the amount of time you have to deliver food before it suffers from temperature changes.
If you’re not yet on an app, consider partnering with another local cook in your area to split the cost of bulk ordering.
If you’re going to deliver food during a meal rush, you don’t have time to cook and deliver the food yourself. You need help, and each of the major apps solves this problem in a unique way. Some apps may have the customers come to you. That’s certainly simple.
Shef builds time delays into the equation, so there is never an intense rush to get the food delivered. It was ordered in advance to begin with.
Foodnome provides many options for getting food to customers, and the app can help you select a dedicated delivery service or person to ensure that food gets to the right place at the right time.
Castiron offers cooks the option to serve customers via pickup, delivery, or shipping. Customers can select delivery or pickup times when they purchase an item.
Ultimately, communication is the key. If you can’t understand delivery instructions, it’s hard to get food to the customer. The same can be said for special instructions related to the meal itself. You want clear declarations of food allergies that prevent anyone from being harmed.
Thankfully, each home food delivery app works hard to automate communication and make sure issues are circumvented before they can occur. Addresses are verified before you ever see an order. Payment is automated. Most of the app resources are geared towards improving and streamlining communication.
Even disputes are handled efficiently. If there is a disagreement between a cook and customer as to how the order was fulfilled, the home cooked food delivery app works as the mediator that can simultaneously protect both parties.
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