Australian food technology startup, CHEFIN created an innovative web app where party hosts and businesses can find professional private chefs to provide healthy meals and exclusive dining experiences.
In December 2015 CHEFIN opened its digital doors and invited consumers and businesses across Sydney to connect with passionate local chefs via a new web application, along with a little hands-on party planning assistance from co-founders and self-confessed ‘social foodies’, Petko Petkov and Sukey Xu.
The goal was to build a unique community where friends, families and businesses could enjoy authentic food experience prepared in their own kitchens by talented private chefs craving a fresh way to earn a second income. That social dining dream has since become a satisfying reality. So what inspired this startup to identify and fill the gap in a rapidly evolving foodservice technology sector?
“My Italian friend was visiting from Sicily and we were cooking meals for each other all the time. It suddenly hit me what a massive role food plays in our social lives and everyday happiness. It’s a core ingredient in many of our favourite memories,” explained Petkov.
“But we can’t always connect with people as often as we would like. I started paying more attention to the hospitality industry and I noticed that issues like overcrowding, long waiting times, group booking surcharges, and poor facilities for children and people with limited mobility, were potentially detracting from the restaurant dining experience.”
With a background in consumer research and insights, Petkov set about gathering data to discover if this ‘gut feeling’ translated to other challenges such as hosting meals and social events at home. The feedback told a clear story: many Australians feel they don’t have time to look for high-quality food options or cook and clean for a dinner party, while take-away and food delivery services don’t always offer the chance to share a positive experience with loved ones.
In the meantime, Petkov and Xu also asked professional chefs how they truly felt about their industry. “The response was eye-opening. Many chefs told us the existing model was far from perfect. They were overworked, underpaid and unhappy. Their lifestyles were not healthy,” Petkov said.
A high percentage of chefs revealed further pain points such as not being able to cook their own recipes or create their own menus, combined with a lack of engagement and recognition from the people eating their food. “The interaction with diners is very important to chefs. They like to see people enjoying their culinary creations and they like to receive direct feedback,” Petkov said.
In response to these frustrations, Petkov, Xu and a small team of business partners launched CHEFIN, a user-friendly online search and booking system designed to serve both sides of the consumer/chef marketplace.
“We wanted to help consumers choose a meal that’s convenient, healthy, affordable, and locally and sustainably sourced, and at the same time, we wanted to take private chefs back to why they fell in love with cooking in the first place. We put all our energy into developing a platform that supported those two big ambitions,” Petkov said.
CHEFIN’ now makes it easy to book a private chef or full catering service for events ranging from a romantic dinner for two all the way to a wedding or corporate function for 200 and anything in between, with home birthday parties proving a particularly popular choice so far. Party planners and corporate decision makers can talk to a CHEFIN’ team member, as well as the private chef, about the specific details and menu options for an upcoming event.
“We are able to offer the customer different cuisines, dishes, themes and even venues. For chefs it’s an opportunity to be their own boss, work flexible hours, make extra cash and express themselves through creative cooking and greater communication with guests,” Petkov said.
CHEFIN used EMMA / IPSOS research to identify two key target markets: ‘social creatives’ (6% of Australians) and ‘educated professionals’ (also 6%) between the ages of 25-44 and living in urban areas. While this audience represents a healthy 12% of the national market, the startup is keen to eventually explore global opportunities.
“Part of our growth strategy is to increase the visibility of food growers/producers and the local chefs that turn these fresh, nutritious ingredients into healthy meals personalised to consumer needs and lifestyles,” Petkov said.
These days the CHEFIN’ brand comprises an expanding team of developers, marketers, managers and executive chefs, who all take pride in being part of Sydney’s vibrant startup ecosystem. “Our policy is to work with a variety of co-working spaces and support other local startups and small businesses wherever possible,” Petkov added.
CHEFIN currently promotes more than 40 private chefs and provides custom catering solutions to more than 30 corporate clients including STARTCON, TWO | SPACE, freelancer and Asia Recon. The startup will soon be launching events in both Brisbane and Melbourne as part of its national expansion. Look out for CHEFIN’s ongoing rise up the foodtech chain.
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