Interview with the Co-Founders of DishNextDoor

DishNextDoor is paving the way to a healthier and more friendly way of eating food ordered to your home. Joel, Bob, James and Aga have started a community of people, no different to you and I, who all have one thing in common: they love to cook. We've all been there at the end of a long day where the thought of our favourite restaurants (like when I ordered Bleecker St from TakeEatEasy) or our go-to curry dishes beckon at the tap of a screen. 

There's now a community of cooks in North-East London (and which is planned to grow throughout London) serving good quality, home-cooked food at an affordable price. The cook might even be your next door neighbour and well, that's the point. The cook could be a mother, a student, a chef, an artist or a lawyer. All they have to do is decide what they want to sell, advertise the dish listing ingredients and number of portions, receive orders for the dish and a customer can either collect the meal (as listings are based on who is cooking in your neighbourhood) or someone can deliver it to them. The cooks come from all over the world and each have their own profile on the website so you can learn a bit about them, why they love cooking and can even take a look inside their kitchen.

I spoke to Bob [left] and James [right] about why they started DishNextDoor and how a more personalised method of ordering takeaway food benefits both the hungry customer and the passionate cook.

What inspired you to start DishNextDoor?

[Bob] The idea came from Joel, who used to work with James and I in our old Consultancy job based in Soho. We found that on an average day, we'd often end up working late and that it was too late to cook. It seemed like everyone else around us was having this problem too -  where we end up eating bad food, or having easy options like takeaways, ready meals or some kind of cheese on toast.

The inspiration for the solution was Joel’s Malaysian Mum who is just a badass cook basically. She makes awesome curries, desserts, and she’s always talked to Joel about wanting to sell her food. The barriers to starting a food business are still very high though. The penny drop moment for us was figuring out how to connect those two things together.

We wanted to find a way to remove all of the barriers such as the packaging, insurance, getting the right qualifications and to provide a platform where we can get the food to people. We'd then be solving a really big need on their side, which is to provide good food to those who care about eating well because they don’t have the time to do it themselves.

The cooks don’t have to be trained chefs to sell their food – do you go and taste the food before it can be advertised online?

[Bob] Yes. As it's a food company, it’s essential that everything we sell and cook is up to scratch. The food needs to be safe, as well as being high quality. We have an on-boarding process that consists of registering with the council. The cooks' kitchens will be inspected and they need to take their food hygiene level training to level 2; these are the same standards that would be required in a restaurant or a café. On top of that, we then go and try the food. Joel will go round and visit the cooks’ kitchens, taste their food and if they pass those three stages, they can then sell their food. Each dish is reviewed online by us and the customers in order to get some extra feedback too.

How do the cooks plan and prepare the meals that they want to advertise? How instant is the service for example?

[Bob] It’s very instant. We’re trying to solve the problem for millennials (those born between the 1980's to 2000) who find it difficult to plan ahead. For example, say you were cooking one day at home, you’ve got the stuff for a lasagne, all you’d need to do is list the ingredients, say how many portions you’re going to sell and when it’s going to be ready. It then goes up and it’s instantly available. You could do that before you buy the ingredients, or you may want to do that afterwards. It’s totally up to you.

So let's say you’ve got an idea of what you want to make maybe a thai green curry - all you need to do is advertise it online and people can book it?

[Bob] Yes, and there are some people who like to change up their meals every day.

You can see that there are some cooks who make a specific dish that customers love. They make it two or three times and people keep coming back for more like the sweet potato gnocchi by Sara.

[James] One of the beauties of it, is that it’s very flexible and it depends on what inspires you. Some people, like Ben, does very different stuff every time, and he’s always trying a new dish too. Cooks will make three dishes for example, and it’s the same three dishes that their family love making too. They can do what they want, it’s up to them and how it fits with their lives.

It sounds a bit like a flexible menu: instead of saying ‘I want to go to this restaurant for their great burger, or this place for the pizza’, the menu can be recreated every day.

[Bob] Yes, and for the customer, it’s a very different way of eating. It’s not like Deliveroo, where you might think, ‘Okay I want a pizza, I’ll just go onto the app and get it delivered.’ This is more like asking yourself 'What’s for dinner tonight?' and it’s all about visiting the website and seeing what’s cooking for yourself. It’s more about discovery -  and it seems that people get really excited about checking the website at lunch time and then asking their family and friends if they should get this dish or that dish for dinner tonight.

I've noticed that there's certain cooks on the website who have a particular style of cooking. Take Azahara for example who is Vegan and also likes to use low salt and sugar in her cooking. For customers who’d like to give Vegan dishes a go or need to cut down their salt and sugar intake, cooks like Azahara who are confident with this style of cooking could provide a very easy and straightforward solution. I don't think people have the time or can ultimately be bothered to research and buy the correct ingredients for more niche dishes. Even when dining out with certain food requirements, you've really got to scout for the right places as they're still sparse in London and tend to be overpriced too.

[Bob] Yes, exactly and we hope that it ends up inspiring the customer because our whole thing really is about spreading the joy of cooking.

[James] I always like how there's food available that you’d never think about trying. Natalia is Venezuelan and I’m not sure if it had even crossed my mind to try Venezuelan food. But suddenly I’ve got an easy outlet where I can try it. That’s exciting I think.

[A waitress in Molly Bakes bring some cupcakes over to apologise for Bob's forgotten coffee and salted caramel cupcake]

Are you guys big foodies then?

[James] jokingly Hate food. Hate cooking.

Is that why you get others to cook for you then? laughs

[Bob] Definitely laughs. I mean, speaking for myself, I cook loads, I sometimes cook on DishNextDoor [Bob cooks a mean seared asian beef salad and has an enviable kitchen]. I do love it; it’s relaxation. I wouldn’t say I’m an amazing cook but I do find it very relaxing. Joel is an amazing cook - I'm sure he’s picked up some of his Mum’s skills. He’s probably had to cajole her into giving away some of her secret recipes. Joel looks after all of the cooking team for DishNextDoor too. 

How do you think companies like DishNextDoor are going to affect expanding food delivery companies like Deliveroo and TakeEatEasy?

[Bob] I would say the food industry in the UK and particularly in London is enormous. First of all, I think there’s ample room for all of these companies – there are a lot of them popping up and doing really well. We think it’s amazing that there’s so much innovation going on and for the customer there’s so much more choice. I personally feel that as there’s so much creativity and new choices coming in then it’s only good for everyone really. I don’t think it’s an either-or situation.

It’s interesting to think about how customers enjoy and are becoming more familiar with the tracking process of their orders. For example, you'll usually be notified that your food has begun cooking in the kitchen and then when it’s on its way. DishNextDoor seems more personal as you can find out more about who is cooking your food rather than just the time of delivery and minimal information about the driver.

[Bob] Yes and I think it’s made people’s expectations very high of what convenience means too. But I do think they’ve slightly lost the human side of it. It is sort of faceless: you order online and then someone turns up in a helmet and gives it to you and walks off. We’re trying to address that because food tastes better when you know who has made it and why they’ve made it. It is the people behind it that makes food amazing.

If you'd like to try some food from DishNextDoor or love the idea of selling some of your own meals, then find out more at:


Bob's DishNextDoor Profile

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