New York is arguably home to the most diverse set of cuisines found anywhere. While there are thousands of restaurants offering various ethnic cuisines, what happens when you are feeling nostalgic and want a home-cooked meal? WoodSpoon is a delivery platform that connects diners with home chefs that prepare authentic ethnic dishes. Each chef on the platform is vetted before they are able to join the platform and diners are charged a nominal $.99 delivery fee for each delivery. Launched last year just as the pandemic made its way to our shores, WoodSpoon offered chefs an immediate opportunity to earn income as restaurants shuttered. Now live in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, the service has been growing 50% month-over-month recently with plans to expand to new markets in the near future. A quick look at the website shows that a diverse range of dishes are available like Massaman Shrimp, Tamago Sando, Berber, and Chicken Schnitzel, accurately reflecting the diversity of New York.
AlleyWatch caught up with CEO and Cofounder Oren Saar to learn more about how his founding team’s experiences inspired the business, the company’s strategic plans, latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $16M, and much, much more.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
WoodSpoon raised $14M for a Series A round led by Restaurant Brands International (RBI) with participation from World Trade Ventures (WTV), Victor Lazarte, and other individual investors to accelerate growth through R&D, marketing, and the doubling of the team in order to expand into new markets.
Tell us about the product or service that Woodspoon offers.
WoodSpoon is a home chef delivery service that helps to connect diners with home-cooked, global cuisines. Through its website or mobile app, diners can order food on-demand and have it delivered the same day or place advanced orders for delivery. We launched in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic. However, as the restaurant industry was ravaged by indefinite closures, WoodSpoon provided an opportunity for chefs to work out of their kitchens and create a steady income. WoodSpoon is currently available in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens and provides nationwide shipping for baked goods.
What inspired the start of Woodspoon?
Merav Kalish Rozengarten (cofounder) and I, two Israelis living in New York, felt a need to fill the void of the Middle Eastern dishes that we missed from our home country. As NY is a great melting pot, we felt that others were missing that authentic taste of home and to our surprise, there wasn’t a service offering this concept. We rallied a team of engineers and marketers to create a simple way for home chefs to share their passion for food with others.
In the sharing economy, we’ve embraced car-sharing with Uber and Lyft, home-sharing with AirBnB and VRBO, now the next evolution is food sharing. WoodSpoon is connecting people through authentic, homemade cuisines created by home chefs who want to share a piece of their heritage and culture with others.
WoodSpoon is one of the only platforms offering on-demand home-cooked delivery. We currently have 150 active chefs on the platform who have embraced the ability to have a more flexible lifestyle and work as part of the booming gig economy. As we want to ensure diners have the highest-quality experience, WoodSpoon thoroughly assesses all home chefs with interviews, kitchen inspections, food auditions and training. WoodSpoon customers are also insured under a comprehensive policy at zero cost for every order made.
What market does Woodspoon target and how big is it?
WoodSpoon is currently available in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens – in addition to nationwide for shipping baked goods. We are exploring other markets in the U.S. with the hope of expanding very soon.
What’s your business model?
WoodSpoon has two native apps for Android and iOS, two different apps for home chefs and diners, as well as a website that diners can order from. WoodSpoon charges fees from both diners and chefs that go toward the delivery costs, payment transactions, insurance, packaging, and marketing.
How has COVID-19 impacted the business?
Since the onset of Covid-19, WoodSpoon saw an uptick in the number of home chefs joining the platform and in sales. We tripled our revenues since the pandemic started. WoodSpoon has recently seen 50% month-over-month growth in every aspect of the business – from sales and new customers to home chefs onboarding and revenue.
What was the funding process like?
Funding rounds can be complex, but we are fortunate to have found a great partner in RBI. As all our investors in this round were so intrigued by WoodSpoon, we were able to accelerate this round much earlier.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Balancing the need to create a growth plan with the need to build a sustainable business for our home chefs.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
First and foremost, our ability to provide an on-demand service, bringing food that is fresh and hot to customers. Additionally, we built an algorithm that can, in seconds, determine the best delivery route from multiple home chefs to diners across New York City. This is a technology advantage that led our investors to participate in this round.
Most customers in the U.S. are used to ordering right here, right now. We didn’t want to change the way they order, but we wanted to change what they order. Our goal was to get them to order from local Home Chefs rather than restaurants. We, along with our investors, believe this is the future of dining. We are the team for this task and our investors believe in our team’s ability to lead in this market.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
WoodSpoon plans to continue growing and expanding into new markets. We hope to expand in 1-2 new markets within the next six months.
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
It really depends on what field/market they are in. They can bootstrap in the beginning (this is what WoodSpoon did), or, if possible, raise money from angel investors/friends and family.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
I see WoodSpoon continuing to grow and impact the lives of more home chefs who want to give up their day jobs and create a stable source of income doing something they love.
What’s your favorite outdoor dining restaurant in NYC?
It’s really hard to choose. There are so many great options. I really love the Israeli restaurant The Bustan on the UWS.