A solution for the obsolescent restaurant industry

“Dios está en todas partes pero atiende en Nueva York” 

In 2013, CookUnity CEO Mateo Marietti found himself in a stranger’s home in Athens, having the conversation of his life. The stranger was Konstantinos, a Greek chef fluent in five languages and former resident of Barcelona and New York. Introduced earlier that day by a mutual acquaintance, the 28-year-old CEO and 65-year-old chef discovered similar interests in cuisine and culture. The newfound friends traded stories for over six hours.

Back in the US, Mateo shared this experience with Lucia Cisilotto, a former co-founder at Sushipop, an innovative delivery-only concept in Buenos Aires. Like Mateo, Lucia was frustrated by structural inefficiencies in the restaurant industry.

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Mateo Marietti and Lucia Cisilotto, CookUnity

These inefficiencies are driven by semi-variable costs for kitchen and wait staff, as well as fixed costs for commercial kitchens and seating space. As restaurants are typically closed for 8-16 hours per day, the industry has significant unutilized capacity. The two colleagues modeled these inefficiencies as consuming up to 15% in gross margins.

After this exercise, Mateo and Lucia had a realization: what if they developed a platform for culinary entrepreneurs to address these issues, similar to Airbnb in hotels and Uber in taxicabs? Mateo explains:

“Around the world, there are thousands of artisan chefs and bakers who have decades of experience in preparing specialty dishes. However, there’s no way to connect these culinary entrepreneurs with food-loving customers.”

The two colleagues applied to startup accelerator AngelPad in New York and were accepted immediately. Over the next several months, they solicited customer feedback, ran behavioral experiments and identified these insights:

  1. There is underutilized supply of professional chefs who specialize in 30-50 dishes
  2. There is untapped supply of amateur cooks who specialize in 2-3 dishes
  3. With the right tools and incentives, thousands of chefs can provide a brand-new source of specialty dishes for consumers

From Margaret Palca Bakes in Brooklyn, Mateo and Lucia started delivering orders 1x/week to dual-income families in Manhattan. Three months later, they expanded to 2x/week and subsequently to 7x/week, offering selections from professional and amateur chefs.

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CookUnity’s first location: Margaret Palca Bakes in Brooklyn, New York

Almost immediately, customers asked for more options. In addition to lunch and dinner options, customers requested specialty drinks, jams, pastries and other selections. In response, CookUnity’s chefs proposed and evangelized new menu items for their customers.

“I learned how to make scones from my grandmother in Bretagne, France, who had the most amazing homemade recipe,” says Edward Rodwell, one of the first chefs at CookUnity. “Now, I can bring these authentic pastries to scone-lovers in New York.”

Today, CookUnity is surging with $150,000 in monthly revenues. Mateo and Lucia have proven there’s a sizable supply of freelance culinary entrepreneurs who care deeply about delivering sustainable options at reasonable prices. And most interestingly, CookUnity has markedly better margins than the obsolescent restaurant industry.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Mateo. We look forward to seeing you, Lucia and the CookUnity team reach your goal of breakeven by 2017!

 

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