Well, we’re already willing to trust everyday strangers when it comes to accommodation and transport (hello, Airbnb and Uber!). But thanks to a new initiative by three Aussies, two of whom founded Menulog, we can now do the same with food.
Enter FoodByUs - an internet marketplace that allows everyday bakers and pot roast makers to sell their home-cooked wares on the internet. At present, FoodByUs is only available in Sydney, but the business hopes to expand in time.
“It’s an opportunity to meet your [food] maker and have really authentic food that is homemade and that is really hard to find anywhere else. Whether it’s Argentinian empanadas or anything else!” Ben Lipschitz, one of the three founders of FoodByUs, tells SBS.
The service allows buyers to live chat with food makers and offers both delivery and pick-up options, allowing the food maker and buyer to interact more directly with one another.
But could an enterprise like this pose a threat to other internet food services such Menulog? The large scale franchises may not be affected by these emerging cottage industries, but what about local boutique eateries that pride themselves on home-style cooking?
“No ... we certainly don’t see it that way,” says Lipschitz. “When you stay at an Airbnb as opposed to a hotel you just want a different experience: you want something more personal. We think FoodByUs is in a similar vein to that.”
“In the case of a restaurant, the advantage they’ve always got is they’re ready and waiting. They have the facilities there to just make you food within minutes. With FoodByUs is more about the quality of the food that is very difficult to find anywhere else. It’s about having that authentic experience.”
Since many of the makers on the site don’t come from an entrepreneurial background, getting their business off the ground can be challenging. So, in addition to offering pricing guidelines for makers, FoodByUs offers a series of marketing and scheduling tools to help them get started.
“They can set their own schedule in terms of making food for sale only on weekends, which is common since a lot of our makers are part-time. And then we even have a photography service, because again they’re not used to selling food. So we go out and take photos of their food and help them get their stuff online,” Lipschitz says.
Though there are local council and state regulations for those who wish to sell homemade foods, FoodByUs enforces their own food safety and quality standards.
"We do take food safety very seriously. There are local council regulations our makers need to adhere to, but we ourselves do quality taste tests. We get makers to drop off samples of their food, where we assess it for presentation and quality. Once it passes our assessment, then at that stage, we put it on the website," Lipschitz says.
A part of that maintaining that quality assurance includes mandatory reviews of makers and their products by purchasers. It's about "building quality and trust" says Lipschitz.
He says he’s been overwhelmed with the positive reactions to FoodByUs, with many emailing the company about how it’s given them the courage to turn their passion for cooking into a part-time business.
“I cannot explain how positive the reaction has been from people,” says Lipschitz. “We’re just trying to build a community of home cooks where you can buy from those home cooks and really enjoy the experience, and it seems to be working!”