FOR the price of a fast food combo, workers at the Cebu IT Park and Cebu Business Park can order a gourmet meal for lunch or late dinner prepared by some of Cebu’s top chefs and delivered to their building’s lobby.
Chef On Demand, which has been operating for just six weeks, is a Cebu-based tech startup that sells and delivers gourmet meals through a website and soon, via an app. It currently operates in Cebu IT Park and the Cebu Business Park, the centers of operation for Cebu’s thriving business process management industry. They accept orders and deliver them twice a day, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., from Mondays to Fridays.
Chef On Demand is able to sell these meals because it pre-orders a number of meals daily from chefs, who prepare it during their kitchen’s downtime: the hours when their restaurants still do not have customers and they and their staff have nothing to do.
Like Uber for chefs
“Before 10 a.m., the kitchen is not doing anything,” tech entrepreneur and Chef On Demand co-founder Bryan Yap said in an interview. Their service allows chefs to be productive in these downtimes and open new potential markets, Yap said.
“It’s like Uber for chefs,” said Yap, referring to the company that jumpstarted the shared economy idea. He said Chef On Demand is “all about promoting the chef.” They currently have three featured chefs—Dennis Uy of Mexi Mama fame, Edgar Bulanon of Nonki and Vance Borja of Chop Chop Food Centre. Yap is in talks with more chefs to sign them up to the service.
Yap said that aside from telling the stories of their chefs, they have also become another outlet for them. Chefs also get the chance to try new things by working with Chef On Demand, citing as example Uy, who can now prepare food other than the Mexican cuisine available in his restaurant.
The service is straightforward: a customer orders a meal through the website at www.chefondemand.com.ph and it is then delivered within 20 minutes to their office building’s lobby. By delivering only to the lobby, Chef On Demand is able to control costs and delivery times as well as deal with issues on office entry, with BPM offices known for their strict security protocols.
The menu ranges from a Kansas Style Chicken BBQ with buttered vegetables and Cajun rice for P99 by Uy to a Chicken Satay and Sambal Fried Rice meal for 109 by Borja to a Chicken Teriyaki Bento for P109 by Bulanon. There are currently 14 meal choices available on the site. Yap said they want to change the menu every two to three weeks.
Yap said that based on reviews and comments they got on Facebook, their customers are happy with the food they are delivering.
Yap, who said he has gone through “many failures,” applied lessons he learned from previous businesses as well as startup events and conferences in building Chef On Demand with his partners. They started with a barebones system and did extensive validation: offering free food in exchange for ordering it through their MVP or minimum viable product website and then later offering 50 percent discount in exchange for ordering it via the website and then picking it up at the lobby.
Since Chef On Demand operates in building clusters, they are able to deliver at no minimum order. From serving meals for office workers, they are also now starting to deliver food for corporate meetings.
Yap said they started in Cebu, which he described as a “really tough market,” but will soon expand in Manila and other parts of the country. He also plans to go to school clusters and residential areas next. He also dreams of expanding outside the country.
Yap said they are happy with the startup’s traction in its six weeks of operation. They have signed up about 1,500 customers with a daily delivery of 150 to 180 meals and growing by the day. He said that with an estimated population of 46,000 in the IT Park and 20,000 in Cebu Business Park, they have a big potential market.
On Nov. 11 and 12, Chef On Demand will represent the Philippines in the Tech in Asia Jakarta 2015 conference after winning the Philippine leg. Yap said he never expected to win and joined merely for the exposure. But with their victory, the team will be joining the Jakarta event with free air fare and accommodation. It will offer a bigger stage for the Cebu team to serve up their offering: gourmet food for the shared economy generation.