Cooking, cleaning, storing, laundry, driving, lawn-mowing and even standing in lines – all things that a few years ago would be counted among chores you just needed to get done one way or another. Now, however, you can get someone else to do them for you, on demand. And though such startups may slowly be turning us into the sedentary, indolent people envisioned in the movie WALL-E, the on-demand “we’ll take care of everything for you” industry is here to stay, and it’s growing like crazy.
La Belle Assiette, French for ‘The Beautiful Plate’, focuses specifically on making quality meals at home (not to mention cooking lessons) a lot less of a hassle. While the “home-cooked” meal may hold somewhat of a hallowed place in the world of gastronomy, not all of us can cook like Julia Child – or have the time to cook like her – let alone crack an egg without cursing evolution for making such flimsy casings for albumen and yolk. La Belle Assiette solves this conundrum by letting customers book chefs to cook meals for them at their homes.
La Belle Assiette vets each of its chefs, many of whom come from top culinary schools and hotels across the world, at a “Validation Dinner,” where a panel of experts (who clearly have one of the best jobs on the planet) appraise their skills. After passing this test, chefs are given a profile on the LBA website. From their profile, prospective customers can view their various menu options and book their services. Besides the menu, the profiles also display chef’s bios, client reviews, and average rating.
Customers visiting the website can simply enter their postcode and the date on which they plan to use the service to narrow down their search. Once a booking has been made and a meal chosen, chefs show up with all the ingredients, cook the meal, and even clean up after – which is awful nice of them. Average bookings cost $55 per person for a party of six people (you have to pay for all ingredients and chef transportation); LBA makes 12 percent on each booking, and the rest goes to the chef.
The French startup has raised $1.5 million (€1.3 million) in its most recent funding round to help with the expansion of its on-demand chef service across countries in Europe. They currently offer the service in Belgium, France, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg. With the injection of fresh funds, the startup plans to pivot from providing private chefs on demand to also catering events.
Across the pond in the USA, on-demand chef services have been tasting similar success.
Private chef service KitchenSurfing has managed to make good on expectations, raising $19.5 million and making news late last year for hiring chefs as employees instead of just independent contractors. San Francisco-based Kitchit lets customers book private chefs starting at $39 per person, and offers a small set of three-course menus at this point. The startups has raised $8.1 million in two funding rounds.
As you’d expect, on-demand chef services not only compete with each other, but also with on-demand food delivery startups like Sprig and Munchery. But there’s also trouble brewing within the industry, with chefs coming out about how they’ve been left feeling disenfranchised by the system. Startups in the domain will have to figure out how to keep both chefs and customers happy in order to maintain what looks like a rather tasty trajectory.
Prateek Jose is a writer and engineering undergrad from India with an unhealthy obsession for obscure historical trivia. Conversations about absurdist fiction and the technological singularity make his day. He’s already uploading parts of his brain to servers by writing for websites such as this one.