As mothers, we probably do not dislike cooking as much as the physical process of acquiring ingredients from the various supermarkets in town. And if you have lived in Dubai long enough, you will know that food shopping is anything but a one-stop-shop in this part of the world. Enter Hello Chef, a meal-kit delivery service determined to make eating easier, both on our stomachs as well as our pockets.
Hello Chef operates on the premise that everyone is an incredible cook, and can cook an amazing meal any night of the week. To help busy families eat healthy, tasty food, they send you a pack full of fun and easy recipes for delicious dinner ideas with the fresh ingredients you need to cook them, direct to your door. All you need to do is choose the type & size of the pack that suits you. The box is modestly priced (AED 26 per meal!), delivery is free and most meals can be cooked in under 30 minutes. Moreover, their recipes change every week so there is good chance that you will never get bored with eating at home.
Not only did I get an opportunity to test their Family Box last week, but also had an enlightening tête-a-tete with their co-founder and Managing Director, Olivia Manner.
I have a bachelor’s in Hospitality and Kitchen management from a university in Finland, and have cooked and catered for friends and acquaintances since I was a teenager. What that really means is that I had an amazing time at school, whipping up fabulous meals and tasting awesome wines while learning about the industry. Despite this and in trying to learn about Quality Assurance & Project Management, I pursued an alternative career for a good 10 years, even though my true calling lay elsewhere.
Post having children, something clicked. Life suddenly got busier and I was longing for my work to have a definite purpose. It was time to get into something that I absolutely loved resulting in my resignation from a Big-4 professional services company in 2014. With the support of my family and friends, I am on a mission to make life better by providing a simple solution for the busy people of today.
Tell us about the birth of Hello Chef. Another baby; or even bigger?
HA! It’s a huge baby, with huge needs and one that is constantly hungry for more! It was all about one significant decision, a few phone calls followed by frantic work to get it done. It is still very frantic, but with scalability, processes and longevity in place now, it makes it much more manageable. And just when you think you have it all figured out and the baby is doing awesome, it is teething and you have to change the tactics again – fascinating!
Business model and pricing. Besides Dubai, which other emirates do you cater to?
Our business model is simple. We want to simplify life without taking away the health and family aspect. Regarding pricing, we are extremely competitive and currently conducting research on how we compare with supermarkets. A huge plus-point is that there is no impulse shopping and expenditures here!
At the moment, we cater to Dubai although, we are about to launch in Abu Dhabi next week.
Do you procure your supplies locally? How do you handle and store your ingredients?
We have a great team of suppliers and try to procure locally as far as possible. Initially, we receive all the produce in our kitchen at DIP where we do a quality check before moving on to apportioning and packing, based on orders received. To give you an idea, we use grass-fed beef from New Zealand; local, hormone and anti-biotic free chicken on natural feed and fresh fish from local seas, Norway and the African Coast. Our vegetables are local too, although, it becomes particularly challenging to get good-quality produce as we approach the summer months.
Do you give flexibility with regards to changes in the meal box? For e.g., if someone were to prefer the Family Box without beef or if there is a need to skip or cancel the subscription temporarily?
We have recently launched a Recipe Choice model for our Low Carb Box. This essentially means that our customers get to choose the 4 recipes of their liking from a choice of 6. This way they can avoid ingredients they don’t like or are allergic to.
Also, we are a subscription service with an option to ‘skip’, ‘pause’ or ‘cancel’ at any time and as many times as you want without any extra cost, so I think that means we are very flexible.
What is your team strength? Given your restaurant background, do you take a personal interest in finalizing the menu, picking out the ingredients etc.?
We have an awesome 3rd generation butcher and kettle farmer who is really passionate about his meat. We make our sausages from scratch and I get to think about the spice combinations which I so enjoy! We also have a very organized and analytical operations staff who is in charge of accounts and lists. We have great packers with an eye for detail and finally, my business partner and husband looks after marketing and strategy which he studies in great detail when not at work. All in all, this combination works really well leaving me with enough time to get creative with the food, test recipes and take care of my customers.
Any significant changes in your business model from the time that you launched? What alterations/innovations can we expect in the near future?
Change is a constant. A year ago, we launched our online payment gateway followed by a brand new facility in DIP 4 months ago. Last week, we launched the Recipe Choice model, next week we intend to début in Abu Dhabi and the agenda for the summers is that of devising some 200 new recipes!
The 1 most satisfying and the 1 most challenging aspect of your business?
Receiving positive feedback makes me go weak in my knees. When people send me pictures of cooking up a storm in their kitchens or families enjoying a meal together, that’s when I know I made the right decision.
The most challenging aspect is the execution. We really try!
Considering that there are other meal-kit deliveries in the market today, what makes you stand out?
Our customers tell us it is a combination of the food and service. But we also believe that the way we constantly try to innovate, makes us different.
My favorite question: why do you consider yourself a geek?
There are a few semi-embarrassing things that make me a geek:
1) I am obsessed with traffic rules (I blame my Finnish heritage for that)
2) I cry every time I hear Eye of the Tiger – because I love real winners.
3. I would choose eating at home (anyone’s home) over eating in a restaurant any day!
To know more about their boxes and weekly menu, click here. Feel free to email Olivia on Olivia@hellochef.me. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and You Tube to view recipes online. Most importantly, remember to order before 12pm on Thursday to receive fresh ingredients on Sunday!