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The culture of non-sharing: why Uber-style food sharing services can’t succeed

The culture of non-sharing: why Uber-style food sharing services can't succeed

If there’s one phrase that can polarize investors, it’s a young company that claims to be «X’s Uber.» For some, it is good to turn a blind eye; for others, it evokes images with high ROI and innovative innovations.

Peer-to-peer markets are the basis of this generation of technology start-ups. Providing a platform that allows users to buy and sell your product or service can be extremely profitable and easily scalable, without requiring the overhead of a company that makes and stores a product themselves. I also get easy publicity – no one would introduce a new minicab service, but as soon as it involves an application and the words «common economy», a decent PR will give you coverage on every business site in the country.

After Uber disrupted the taxi industry and Airbnb shook up hospitality, the food industry seems to be the next obvious area for change. Consumers are obsessed with food-based content; there is a growing demand for homemade, organic and healthy food; and a new generation of home cooks can serve dishes to restaurant standards. Combine our fascination with the common economy with a passion for food, and it would seem that a peer-to-peer market for home cooking is the startup that all investors would take the opportunity to participate in.

uber_of_food_sharing_culture _-_ gousto

We are clearly interested in finding innovative ways to eat our meals. Just look at COOK , the frozen food company that charges a premium for the use of natural ingredients and minimal processes in its meals as an example of potential success. They are mostly stored in their independent stores, but despite being less convenient and expensive than a standard microwave dinner at the supermarket, there is a huge demand for a healthier but just as simple product. of complicated. In a similar way, companies like it HelloFresh Yes Gousto we succeed with a model based on the opposite idea: that we want to spend time in the kitchen cooking, rather than in a supermarket, and we both charge a weekly price for delivering ingredients and recipe cards to customers who want more variety in meals. and improve your culinary skills.

«We had the idea for the neighbors to cook for each other, we thought it was a good idea.»

In 2012, three London entrepreneurs noticed the trend of food innovation and created Eatro, a peer-to-peer market where home chefs can advertise. Hungry and health conscious users can select their favorite menu item and agree with the supplier when they pick up or receive the food.

Bar Segal was one of the original founders of Eatro. «When we started the business, we were idealists. We were students without much money and we didn’t know how to cook. I lived in a municipal building with people of different nationalities and I could smell their food cooking every night. We had the idea for the neighbors to cook for each other, we thought it was a good idea, «he said.

Katie, a 28-year-old teacher living in south London, used the service in her early days. «I think I found out from an article someone posted on Facebook. I thought it was a cool idea, so I downloaded the app. The problem was that I had to order a few hours in advance and I needed someone to live on my commute from work to sell an attractive meal and I had to be free to pick it up at the right time. . Even in London it’s quite difficult and I thought it was crazy to get around the bus for another half hour when I was able to tidy up, ”he said.

The sellers were in a similar problem. After Eatro staff members came to her home to taste her food, check her health and safety standards, and take pictures, the pressure increased to sell some food. But without being able to anticipate the demand, it was impossible for the sellers to know how much to cook: too little and they could lose sales, too many and will be out of pocket. This delicate understanding of the balance between supply and demand and learning to take calculated risks, makes the difference between the success and failure of a business. However, in this case you are talking about people with other full-time jobs who are simply trying to earn little pocket money. With a perishable product that had to be sold in a few hours, it just wasn’t worth it.

uber_of_food_sharing_culture _-_ eatroPicture: Evening standard

But the Eatro team soon realized that there was a problem. To address safety issues, they had to go to each chef’s house to taste the food and ensure the quality, which was not a scalable model. «If I could go back and do it again, I would focus less on the sales side and more on demand,» Segal said. «But I really don’t think peer markets will ever work for food. People are too closed to buy food from foreigners completely. It takes one thing to go wrong with a meal and it could be a disaster. «

«It only takes one thing to go wrong with a meal and it could be a disaster.»

In April 2014, Eatro gave in to the model’s tricks and changed its name to One Fine Meal , a premium dinner delivery service that hires in-house chefs to create a daily menu of fresh ingredients, which customers can order through the app and deliver at a set time. While it initially gained some traction, companies such as Deliveroo and JustEat offered affordable food delivery from a wide variety of restaurants in the city, with customers approaching the big names and the variety of options. Without a substantial investment to focus on marketing, One Fine Meal became unsustainable and eventually closed its doors.

Shortly after Eatro’s disappearance, four Stoke Newington decided to give the model another chance. Eatro had tried to climb too fast, they thought. Dish Next Door was born to offer the community in a specific postal code, N16, the platform for selling home-cooked meals to hungry and time-hungry professionals.

The founders were not available for comment at the time of writing, but I met with one of them a year ago, just as they were about to launch, and asked why I thought they would succeed where Eatro had failed, despite much investment. smaller. . It seems that Dish Next Door believed that less is more and that Katie’s problem of not being able to find someone close enough to provide the right product could be easily solved by focusing on a small area, spending marketing budgets. and advertising to attract customers … enough people. board at N16 to support expansion. But media coverage and local interest were not enough, and Dish Next Door was active for less than a year before closing the site due to lack of funds.

Despite the unique obstacles that food presents as a product, entrepreneurs do not give up on finding the winning formula for the food-sharing economy to work. Startups that are billed as Uber-for-food currently include From home In New York, Neighbor aroma in Australia, Josephine in San Francisco and Foodie shares in Los Angeles.

Paddy Willis, co-founder of Grocery Accelerator, a program that supports startups in the food and beverage industry, does not see this as the future of food innovation. «We were conditioned to expect certain standards when it comes to food preparation,» he said of the idea behind peer-to-peer food markets. «We like that our food comes from a regulated factory or a restaurant kitchen, rather than the house of a person we have never met. This requires a high degree of adventure on the part of the consumer, which many are simply not ready to embrace. Why take the risk when Deliveroo can bring you dinner from a number of local restaurants? «