When Ani Torosyan walked into her mother-in-law’s kitchen on any given day, there would always be a humongous pot of food, and she would always ask why she makes enough to feed the whole block. That question summed up a lightbulb moment for the entrepreneur: Why doesn’t she feed the whole block?
Torosyan came to wonder if there were more culinary wizards like her mother-in-law. After doing some research, she found there were many. And that was especially the case in the Los Angeles area, according to Torosyan: “There are so many great culinary professionals and home cooks all around us,” she said. To connect them with their neighbors, Torosyan created the DishDivvy platform.
To use the service, consumers download an iOS or Android app and enter their address to see meal options from nearby cooks. The dishes are presented with pictures along with a list of ingredients and allergen information. Once consumers decide to select a particular item, they can choose a portion size or add notes to the cook before checking out. To retrieve their meals, they simply pick them up curbside without ever leaving their car.
In terms of pickup logistics, home cooks set up a window by entering a pick-up start time and end time. They can also enter a prep time – how long it takes to buy groceries and prepare the food – which ensures that consumers can’t flood the chef with last-minute orders. For example, a cook could set a pickup time between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. and specify a prep time of two hours, which means he or she could stop taking orders at noon.
From a payments perspective, DishDivvy runs on Stripe and home cooks can use direct deposit. One unique feature is that consumers can choose multiple cooks for multiple days in the same transaction, and the system will send the order to cooks in batches on the appropriate days. This makes it easy for consumers to plan their meals in advance. They might not have that same convenience when ordering through a restaurant, as they would likely have to place those orders one day at a time through individual transactions.
Although they can also turn to meal kits, Torosyan finds that option can be challenging for consumers, who would also have to decipher a recipe card, prepare the meal and do the dishes. The idea behind services like DishDivvy is to give people access to prepared food in a fresh way by tapping into chefs from within their own neighborhoods.
The Gig Economy
Who exactly are the home cooks on the DishDivvy platform? Torosyan said that stay-at-home moms and grandmothers are some of the people offering their food on the site. At the same time, she is noticing there are cooks who might be chopping carrots all day in a restaurant without the chance to really try out a recipe. “This allows them to have a creative outlet,” Torosyan noted. In addition, she said she has seen individuals who love to cook, but might otherwise have a full-time job. And there are some home cooks on the platform that specialize in certain areas, such as dessert.
DishDivvy isn’t the only platform in the home cooking space. Appetivo, in particular, seeks to tap into the food gig economy in California. In a press release announcing its launch, the company compared the concept to the early days of homeshares and rideshares, and said that it “offers everyday people a gig opportunity.” The company, according to The Spoon, plans to launch in Los Angeles as well as other areas in Southern California. Appetivo has already been running for the past six months in Mexico City.
In the overall gig economy, there has been an increase in those pursuing food preparation and related services. Gig workers pursuing jobs in the space grew from 8 percent of ad-hoc jobs in the second quarter from 5 percent in the first quarter, according to the PYMNTS Gig Economy Index, revealing that the area is gaining traction. That goes to show that the gig economy doesn’t just include Uber drivers; the model can be applied to wholesome, home-cooked meals, too.