UCook

Innovative home-delivery service UCook hit South Africa with a bang two years ago, starting off in Cape Town and recently expanding their services to Johannesburg. It’s a relatively simple concept: clients select three meals a week from three different menus (Rustic, Low Carb and Vegetarian) and the portioned ingredients and recipes are delivered on the Monday. “UCook aims to make cooking nutritional meals accessible, easy and stress free. We eliminate the need for extensive grocery shopping and instead deliver the exact ingredients you’ll need for whipping up what’s on our recipe cards to your door. Through doing so, we enable you to create three mouth-watering meals each week,” says UCook Co-Founder David Torr.

 

We chatted to Katie Barry about how the innovative company started, the behind-the-scenes logistics, and the reception the service has received:

 

Hospitality Marketplace: How did the company start?

 

Katie Barry: The company was born in a garage almost 3 years ago now. My colleague David came up with the idea when he was living in London and struggling to find time to shop and cook. He came across similar business models whilst there and thought that it would work down in South Africa. A few of us jumped on board, and the rest is history!

 

HM:So what happens behind the scenes?

 

KB: It’s quite a laborious process! The amount of work that goes into preparing the box our customer opens up when they get home from work is quite substantial. We like to plan our recipes around seasonality and local produce. Once we have found out what is available, our glorious food team creates simple yet interesting dishes combining a variety of different cuisines, which are then shot and tested before they eventually appear on the website. The logistics side of it is a little less glamorous. We order in all the produce (I never knew what 110kg of butternut looked like until recently!) and it is checked for quality, weighed and portioned if necessary, packaged and put into individual meal bags. The bags are packaged into boxes and then delivered. We have some great suppliers, who are really the backbone of what we do. We especially love working with a little community organisation called Abalimi Harvest of Hope, which is an organic NPO farming initiative run in Phillipi. We tell them what we want and they pull it out of the ground and drop it off about 3 hours after – it doesn’t get fresher than that.

 

HM: What is your background in the hospitality industry?

 

KB: My hospitality background was actually very limited until I first started at UCook. To make ends meet before we could even think about paying salaries, I waitressed at a great Italian place in Green Point called Il Leone. It taught me so much, especially how to manage my time and deal with disgruntled customers. They have the most awesome team over there and amazing pasta, I had an absolute ball.

 

HM: What has the reception been like so far and how many customers do you have on average every week?

 

KB: The reception has been great, which is really wonderful. I still get slightly starstruck when I meet people I don’t know who have heard of UCook! We have just hit 500 customers a week, spread across Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria and KwaZulu-Natal. It’s crazy to think that this time a year ago we were delivering about 5 boxes a week.

 

HM: Why do you think that people are using the UCook service?

 

KB: I think the reason why UCook works so beautifully is it takes all the hassle out of a process most would like to engage in, however they simply don’t have the time. If you have a box of food with instructions telling you exactly what to do to re-create that beautiful Carbonara, then you are less likely to hop out for a takeaway. We also hear that a lot of people are getting their families and partners involved in the cooking process, which they hadn’t done before. That is always great to hear.

 

HM: Which menus tend to be the most popular?

 

KB: People definitely lean towards the Low Carb menu, however if there is something a little more on the rustic side like a burger, or a really interesting recipe to make like homemade gnocchi, then that always knocks it out the park.

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