Startup Your Fork brings culinary magic into our fast food culture
Launched in October, Your Fork is a Sydney-based startup bringing rare culinary treasures to a culture accustomed to fast food and low quality takeaway.
With our busy lifestyles, many of us don’t have the time or the inclination to prepare home cooked meals. At Your Fork, members can order fresh home cooked meals online directly from a network of registered cooks and culinary artists. Those with cooking skills can register with the network, set their own hours of operation, and earn income by catering orders from users.
Foodies and chefs are brought together under one delightful umbrella, allowing users to discover culinary magic from the top maestros of home cooking. Best part is, users don’t have to pay high-end restaurant prices. In fact, meals cost an average of $10.
Founded by brothers Roshan and Shanu Mahanama, Your Fork emerged as an idea in July this year. The Mahanama brothers transformed the idea into a commercial reality in just three months.
Many startups make the mistake of spending too much time in the development phase, using up all their resources before making their product available to the public. Rather than lingering on trying to launch the ‘perfect’ startup, the Mahanama brothers decided to commit themselves to the project immediately, testing and adjusting their business model as required.
Roshan acts as the figurehead and spokesperson for Your Fork. It was apparent during interactions, that his work is a labour of love. He’s a well-oiled machine when it comes business, having founded, grown and exited mobile technology startup Live Connected. After receiving a great offer, he decided to move onto greener pastures.
In his own words, “My last business was mobile phones and nobody really cares for sharing their positive experiences with mobile phone products. Whereas if people experience a nice meal, they’re likely to share it with their friends.”
In contrast, Roshan seems much more excited by the business prospects that Your Fork is opening up: “In my last business, the job was ridiculously stressful. Mobile phones aren’t products that you can please the customer with. They’re not going to say, ‘Oh you got my bill right. Well done’. Whereas with home cooked meals, they’ll say ‘wow, this is amazing’.”
He explains that Your Fork is essentially about food sharing. They are actively trying to reinvent takeaway and shine the spotlight on everyday cooks who want to share their culinary handiwork.
The idea for Your Fork, Roshan says, came after reading takeaway food statistics: “In 2011, we spent $37 billion dollars on take away food. The number is increasing by six percent every year, and we felt this was the right market to tap into. We knew we could transform takeaway.”
Most diners are pre-ordering their meals on the day or one day in advance, choosing from a list of chefs in their local area, so they can pick up their order. Price ranges for home cooked meals are on par with most take away services.
Two person entrées and desserts cost around $5 each, with main dishes priced at $10. Aside from excellent meals at affordable prices, the big draw is being able to meet with the in-house cook at their homes. Your Fork takes 15 percent out of each transaction processed. This covers the costs of marketing and the platform build itself.
It can be alarming the way people change in the business world. Many become overwhelmed with the status or self-centered when they are new and thrust into the spotlight. For Your Fork, the company and its team stand somewhere outside this sphere of influence.
Their ultimate goal is to inspire people with food. Roshan says, “We know that the real rock stars are the home cooks, not us. We just happen to be the medium through which they can communicate to an audience that hasn’t discovered them yet.”
Just since October, Your Fork has gained over 4000 registered users. Add to that number, approximately 60 cooks ready to deliver from locations in Sydney, Melbourne and Tasmania. This growth of users and cooks is happening with relatively little online promotion or advertising.
Most new registrations are finding their way to Your Fork via word of mouth and social media. Due to affordability, the startup has found itself drawn primarily to Facebook for advertising and promotional purposes.
There are two subcategories of cooks on Your Fork: you have culinary artists that want to make additional income and people who simply have a passion for cooking, but aren’t ready to make a career transition. Over a third of registered cooks are stay-at-home mothers.
On the dining side, you have consumers crave home cooked meals but don’t want to deal the hassle of preparing it themselves and diners that want to discover new types of cuisine.
Your Fork is well grounded in business sensibility, but for Roshan it is more about great food and people enjoying it. He says Your Fork “is giving people a chance taste things that they normally wouldn’t while also offering a home made twist on dishes that people may already be familiar with.”
Joining the network is free for all users, so the opportunities can be tasty and lucrative. Those who are registered as chefs can create multiple storefronts for different styles of catering. The available food menu is expanding as Your Fork grows, but the website already offers a variety of multicultural options including Japanese, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, and Italian cuisines.
“People are loving our products, and I am loving the gig. There are very few jobs where you get to run out to a person’s house and they prepare you this incredible meal. All I have got to do is take a few photos, try the food and chat with the cook.”
Roshan and the Your Fork team have found their niche market and are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to see their dream project through. The company is self-funded at this point, but their sources and methods of revenue are still being hammered out.
Your Fork has a decidedly non-traditional marketing strategy. From decisions about payment systems to staying focused on localised catering, the startup is making choices on their own terms. Your Fork has chosen to use PIN, a Perth-born technology, and not rush into using global giant PayPal for payment processing – thus positioning themselves as a firmly Australian company with aspirations to grow further in time.
Embarking on a great startup endeavour can be exciting, but also has inherent disadvantages. Consumers may be supportive of a product initially, then reject it when a company seeks to be self-supportive. Often companies must alter their pricing and methodology, so they can stay alive in the global marketplace.
While the team is still trying to establish a sound business model, there’s no doubt that they’re enjoying their first wave of success. While they’re certainly stirring up interest from home-based culinary artists and foodies alike, the truth is much simpler – everyone loves to discover something new every day. Your Fork wants to be that place of discovery where, ‘You can discover food’.
Your Fork has also just introduced home deliveries in Sydney. More information is available via www.yourfork.com.