If you heard that you could order a home-cooked meal from a stranger through an app, would you do it?
As a consumer, it’s easy to dismiss the idea. How do you know the food is good? How do you know it’s safe to eat? But the new app, Homemade (which is launching in Philly today), is offering exactly that–to act as a portal between food producers and those willing to buy sandwiches from strangers on the street. And while obviously we had some questions about this, after doing a little digging, I’ve learned that there’s good reason to be excited about this potentially revolutionary app.
Homemade is an app created by two friends, Nick Devane and Mike Dee. Essentially, the app is a platform for local cooks to sell their best meals to customers looking for a genuine, home-cooked dish—but who don’t actually want to make it themselves.
When Devane was twelve, his family became homeless for some time, and the thing he missed most was homemade food and the connections that were shared at the dinner table. Just a few years ago, while visiting his grandmother, he had her yellow cake with chocolate frosting—a comfort food with so much care put into it. Enjoying his grandmother’s cake brought the idea of Homemade to life—Devane wanted to make a platform for people to buy and sell delicious, home cooked meals and enjoy all of the comforts that come with them, while creating a “community through food.”
Homemade was selected from a pool of over 1,700 international applicants to be part of the start-up accelerator company, Techstars New York. There, Devane and Dee grew their business, soft launched the app, and by January 2016, they officially launched Homemade in New York with over 500 new cooks by the end of that month alone. Devane said that after their successful launch in New York, Philadelphia “was the next logical step” for them.
Homemade is an incredible resource for cooks who can’t afford or are too busy to run their own restaurant but would like to make some money selling their food. Not only is the app an effective platform for that, but it also offers free coaching for cooks to help them become successful. Devane says that cooks can get help with food photography, marketing, establishing their brand, and setting prices for their meals.
Julia Erlichman, one of the chefs in Philadelphia who had been beta testing the app before today’s launch, has been selling her food through Homemade for a few weeks and is happy with the app so far.
Last week, Erlichman cooked up a meal of oven fried chicken, roasted potatoes and broccoli, and this Friday she’ll be selling chili, cornbread, and “healthy slaw.” She calls her meals “Weekly Dinner Delicious,” and noted that a lot of her customers are families who want a healthy, homemade meal but don’t have the time to cook it. She’s happy to customize her meals for picky eaters while still staying healthy, like making cauliflower mac and cheese for the kids (they don’t suspect a thing!).
On top of cooking for Homemade, Erlichman is also an event planner and does fundraising for a non-profit, so she appreciates the ease of using Homemade. Payment for the food goes right through the app to the cook (there’s a 9% service fee that goes towards Homemade). The Homemade team also coached her through the process, helping her set prices and a delivery method that works best for her. Erlichman personally delivers her meals to customers, but another way for consumers to get their meals to is to agree upon a meeting place with the cook.
Of course, one common concern people have with Homemade is the quality and safety of the food they’re purchasing. Although it’s reasonable to be skeptical, Homemade has guidelines and regulations cooks must follow for their food to be allowed on the market.
To become a cook on Homemade, there is an application process that must be completed that includes a detailed culinary background, certifications, and other general information that gives the Homemade team an idea of the cook’s qualifications.
The cook must then pull together a base of twenty customers to test their meals and review them—basically proving that their food is good and worth purchasing. If the cook passes that test, they can then move on to sell their food through Homemade–which processes payments as “donations,” thereby getting around the idea that sales of baked goods, desserts and prepared foods (other than canned or jarred products) must come from a licensed kitchen in order to be legal.
At this point, the cooks start cooking and displaying the meals they’re making for hungry customers to browse. Consumers have the ability to choose the food they want and can make judgments on how they like it by rating meals on the app. If a cook ever drops below three stars, the Homemade team will halt their business and perform an audit to determine if the cook is eligible to continue selling food through the app.
All of the cooks are given documents with health and safety standards for cooking, and Homemade also provides tools and guidelines such as proper handling techniques, the temperatures at which certain foods must be cooked, and refrigeration practices, to name a few. No, it’s not the same as operating out of an inspected kitchen being run by professionals, but Homemade’s goal is to provide cooks with a low bar to entry, while still maintaining quality controls.
So far, business has been going smoothly. Devane says they have noticed a trend in the kinds of foods that are ordered through Homemade most: baked goods and desserts, vegan/“super healthy” foods, and homestyle foods. As mentioned above, all payments are by donation, with the general range of meal prices being between $8 and $13. Currently, Homemade is only available for iOS and can be downloaded through iTunes for free.
Homemade is being tested in cities throughout the U.S., Australia, and Canada, and there are currently over 700 cooks selling through the app in the United States. In the future, the Homemade team plans to expand to New Orleans, Miami, Boston, Austin, and Los Angeles.
But starting today, right here in Philly, you have the chance to make this decision for yourself. Are you comfortable with the idea of a stranger making your dinner for you? Does ordering food online from someone’s home kitchen freak you out? Or, like Devane says, do you think Homemade sounds like a wonderful new way to build communities through sharing, community engagement and chili? Because if you have a hankering for a slice of home-cooked apple pie or don’t feel like cooking dinner for yourself tonight, there might be a neighbor right down the street who’s got you covered.