Food is a popular startup niche: Travel site Skift recently picked the topic for their new vertical, while Buzzfeed's Tasty videos are their most popular and enduring accomplishment. TIME even has an entire site dedicated to breakfast. And a big part of food startups are meal delivery services.
HUNGRY, which publicly launched in the D.C metro area this past summer, aims to deliver a simple yet flavorful addition to any foodies' day: It's a sharing economy marketplace.
HUNGRY chefs are independent contractors who work with the service, not for it. They create their own menus and choose their schedules and pricing, while HUNGRY takes care of packaging, delivery and marketing. It's a model that lowers the barrier to entry for professional chefs who are looking to earn supplemental income and get their name out in a crowded industry.
I had a chat with Shayan Pahlevani who, alongside his brother Eman, founded the service.
How did you land on it?
“My brother, Eman and I came up with the idea when we were on lunch break at our previous company. Our office was located in a food desert with few alternatives outside of the unhealthy fast food options. Craving delicious, authentic food that was locally prepared with insight into the ingredients and the chef’s background, we realized there was no platform that offered this sort of experience. Market research proved that professional chefs were already selling their culinary creations, and foodies were in search of access to chef-prepared meals- the marketplace was the missing link. This was the birth of HUNGRY.”
How is HUNGRY different from other culinary delivery services?
“What’s different about HUNGRY is that you get to know the chef who is making your meal and you get access to really authentic food you can’t buy anywhere else. We are creating something totally new. There are many other food delivery services delivering chilled foods, restaurant foods, or ingredients for a “make it yourself” experience, but there are no others that both put the spotlight on the chef and deliver the food hot and ready to eat. As we like to say, “Know your chef, LOVE your food”. We're offering premium, prepared meals at affordable price points, which also sets us apart.
Our goal is to bring chefs to the forefront and have foodies know their chefs. Today, you only know the food, you don’t know the background, or know who made it. We want to disrupt the way people view food ordering. We believe everyone deserves better food.”
How many cities are you servicing?
“We’re currently delivering to most parts of Washington, DC and Arlington, Virginia. For companies or orders of 10 meals or more, we’ll deliver to anywhere in the Washington, DC area.”
What are some of the popular dishes?
“Our most popular dishes are creative twists on traditional lunch items, but all menu items are unique to the app. Foods like Chef Rakesh’s Kathi Rolls and Chef Al’s Caribbean Salmon are classics, where foods like Chef Stacey’s Pho-ritto and Chopped Champion’s Adam Greenberg’s Salmon Burger are new, trending dishes.”
How do you determine the menu?
“Our chefs have creative control over their menus, but we have a team of seasoned chef advisers who advise them on popular foods that sell best, creating seasonal meals and using seasonal and local ingredients, and more.”
Would you mind sharing the average cost?
“The average cost is $9-14 for lunch dishes and $10-20 for dinners. We pride ourselves in offering a premium service at an affordable rate. We’re democratizing the personal chef, giving the everyday consumer access to top quality food at reasonable prices.”
What's the one piece of advice you would give a younger version of yourself if you could go back in time?
“As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve learned that, like most endeavors in life, there are many ups and downs. You should constantly question your ideas and your approach, but not yourself. If you really believe in the business idea, then keep challenging yourself to find new and better ways to make it a reality. Also, it’s important to see the big picture (in this case, our goal to create thousands of jobs nationwide and empowering chefs) and work towards that goal in small steps.”