Like Uber for at-home chefs: startup FoodSt cooks up meal delivery expansion

Like Uber for at-home chefs: startup FoodSt cooks up meal delivery expansion

With a desire to see Australians eat better, Lorraine Gnanadickam left her high-flying pharmaceuticals job to establish home-cooked meals delivery service FoodSt in 2015.

Gnanadickam, a chef in a previous life, and her husband Sanjay have since tapped into something sweet, delivering more than 15,000 meals to date.

Now, with the backing of former Afterpay head David Hancock, FoodSt is stirring up the food delivery sector as we know it, with plans to expand nationally in the oven.

If there's anything Australia isn't short on its variety in our diets.

As a multicultural melting pot, most of the world's culinary delights are right on our doorstep or can be delivered there with the tap of a screen.

It's this spirit that informs FoodSt, a growing home-cooked meals delivery platform, co-founded by Lorraine Gnanadickam (pictured right) and her husband Sanjay.

Since 2015, the pair have been running the business from Sydney's North Shore, facilitating the delivery of hand-cooked meals from home-based chefs all over New South Wales.

Just a glance at FoodSt's website is enough to witness the variety on offer firsthand, with meals being made from the Sydney-based kitchens of Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican households.

"I come from a very multicultural background, so we've always had food at the centre of what we do when we get together," Lorraine tells Business News Australia.

"There's so many different types of foods that are not in mainstream restaurants, so FoodSt gives light to that.

"Unless you're invited to somebody's house as his mother makes an awesome Hyderabadi biryani, for example, you would never taste that bit of adventure."

Lorraine's love of food was just one impetus to create FoodSt starting the business also gave her room to spend more time with her two young children.

Previously, Lorraine worked in the pharmaceuticals industry, developing medical devices to treat ailments like pancreatic cancer.

Sick of the rigour required to maintain that corporate schedule, and wanting to ensure her kids ate well, the co-founder realised something needed to change.

"I found it increasingly difficult as a working mum to do both jobs," she said.

"We found ourselves heating up frozen meals from the supermarket, and buying takeaway food, and coming from a background where my mum cooked nutritious food every single day I felt a lot of guilt about that.

"We knew people in our neighbourhood that would love to share their food with others they're cooking something beautiful and they wish they could share it or make money cooking. So I thought 'why don't we just cook for one another and find a way to make home cooking that's available to time-poor people and give people an opportunity"."

Former Afterpay head David Hancock takes a slice

With many talented cooks stuck at home last year, the FoodSt platform witnessed 70 per cent growth in just 12 months.

This boom was enough to attract the attention of former Afterpay (ASX: APT) head David Hancock (pictured left), who has since invested $50,000 into the growing startup.

According to Lorraine, Hancock is putting his money where his mouth is and is advising FoodSt on pathways for growth.

"He's a very involved investor, we're very lucky to have his wealth of knowledge and his interest in our business," Lorraine said.

"There's a wealth of knowledge and experience and contacts, and he mentors me quite a bit, so his investment is not just his money, it's also having access to him and being able to learn from him."

The funds will enable FoodSt to expand its reach in New South Wales, where the business currently operates, and potentially further afield.

"The next stage for us is to start expanding, so we want to solidify our footprint in Sydney and the rest of the state," she said.

"We're looking at setting up in places where we could get more cooks from a different area because most of our cooks are Sydney-metro-based and our warehouse is in the Northern Beaches.

"Beyond that, we're looking at different states, and we'll be expanding this quite quickly. Our vision is to have FoodSt in every community."

Taking on meal delivery giants

While FoodSt's approach to food delivery is certainly niche, they're up against big players like UberEats which can get a hot takeaway meal delivered to your door in minutes, and YouFoodz (ASX: YFZ) which delivers healthy microwaveable meals around the country.

But Lorraine says FoodSt's strengths lie in its differences and its dedication to both its cooks and customers.

"The cooks get access to our loyal and growing customer database so they don't have to go out there and market. We provide them with the packaging, the power of the brand, all the logistics, and we deliver it to people's homes," she says.

"We have people from all walks of life selling meals on the platform. Our cooks are from all over the world bringing flavours of their home countries to the plate, meaning we have a unique marriage of diversity and authenticity in our menu.

"We also offer employment to those who are talented and passionate about food yet may struggle with traditional workplaces. Some of our cooks have sold their meals while on maternity leave and we've had immigrants grow successful small businesses, despite limited English, using their cooking skills. Watching our cooks succeed on the platform is one of the most satisfying components of this business."

The company's dedication to hygiene and safety standards are another feather in FoodSt's cap all chefs on the platform undergo a stringent vetting process and must obtain food safety supervisor certificates the highest level of safety training there is.

"Once they're on our platform we sample everything new they put up because we know what our customers will and won't eat to a degree," Gnanadickam said.

"We have standard sizes, everything has to be frozen, we've got strict reporting on temperatures and all that sort of thing.

"We're probably a little bit stricter than you would expect of a restaurant because we know they are coming from other people's homes."

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