By Susan Belknapp, California Business Journal.
The easy accessibility of online ordering and delivery has been hopeful ray in an otherwise very dark time for foodies and those who love to dine out. Though we can still access some high-end restaurants for dining at home, the experience is still a mere shadow of its former self once the food is packed into to-go containers, no matter how much care was taken on the merchant’s side.
Prior to the pandemic, the online food delivery industry was already exploding and on pace to hit $200 billion globally by 2025. Those numbers have accelerated due to COVID-19, though the final statistics probably won’t be in until we truly emerge from lockdown’s long-term influence.
Call it prophetic or the right idea at the right time, but as the ground shifted beneath the restaurant industry and foodies’ access to their passion in the last several months, the creators of the mobile-friendly web app Homebite already had a new solution in the works: an app that enables users to book a chef to come to their home and create a meal. This results in a meal of the client’s choice that is served fresh, hot and more in line with what a “personal chef” or restaurant experience would be and not deconstructed into various bags, boxes and containers.
This “chef at your fingertips” is a valid option – a personal chef with a personal touch. If you’re busy working and homeschooling, you might want to arrange for a local expert to come prepare a restaurant style experience for your family. Maybe you want to get a few friends in your “pandemic pod” together for much-needed decompression with a wine pairing dinner developed and prepared by a professional chef?
Homebite is the brainchild of Co-Founders Benjamin Griffith and Alexander Tash. Both had seen catering and home-chef apps but they didn’t quite have the connection the market was looking for, so they began developing a platform of their own. The planning and architecture were evolving when COVID hit. They had already formed partnerships with several culinary schools, but that element had to be sidelined as the schools closed. Griffith battled COVID himself, which kept things on pause for several months.
“Though it was trying at times, the circumstances that emerged ended up putting the app in an ideal position as chefs worked to supplement their income and consumers craved a break in their homebound routines,” he says. “We are now launching wide in California and the West and are ready to accept profiles from chefs throughout the region.”
Reno, Nevada-based Homebite wants to ensure its solidarity with the restaurant industry and support personnel who have been sidelined during the pandemic. To address this, Griffith committed to donate a percentage of its profits to organizations that have been providing relief to restaurant professionals.
“Now that things are beginning to normalize, we plan on donating a portion of our profits. Because we’re so connected to the industry, this hits very close to home. There are a few restaurants in town that have already closed their doors forever.”
This is no small commitment for a largely self-funded startup in its earliest launch stages. Though they had interest from backers, the founders ultimately opted to finance the venture themselves to maintain autonomy.
Once a chef creates a profile page, he or she is able to write about their qualifications, work experience, and post photos of their food. Chefs create their own menus and their own prices. The customer, or host as Homebite calls them, chooses the chef and menu they want to have. While the chefs create set menus, hosts can make small adjustments such as allergy concerns or small variations.
A two-star Michelin chef is obviously going to price him or herself higher than a recent graduate of culinary-arts training, so a host can find pricing flexibility, even within a similar theme.
“We take care of all of the paperwork, billing, and scheduling to keep both chefs and hosts happy,” Griffith says. “Ease of use is important for both sides and we want to have a five-star experience for chefs and diners.”
Homebite has conducted scalability testing throughout its beta periods and is “ready for our Western U.S. rollout,” Griffith says. “Of course, you never know until you go live to see what individual issues pop up, but we’re excited to get going. We should be ready to scale even on a national level very soon and connect hungry diners with amazing chefs.”
Chef’s interested in creating a profile can go to homebite.com.
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