In the Spotlight: why meal kit business Dishpatch is championing chefs you haven't heard of

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

In the Spotlight: why meal kit business Dishpatch is championing chefs you haven't heard of

Related tags: meal kits

Dishpatch co-founder Pete Butler on Spotlight, its new platform for lesser-known chefs, and the challenges facing the meal kit market in the year ahead.

Tell us about Spotlight
We want Dishpatch to be a platform for emerging, trailblazing chefs as well as established, quality-led operations. Spotlight partners exclusively with lesser-known chefs who don’t have their own restaurants yet. The Dishpatch team love food and restaurants and the mission has always been to share that with a much wider audience. And discovering up and coming talent is a huge part of that.

Who are some of the chefs involved in Spotlight?
Our first partnership was with Jenny Phung, who runs Ling Lings – a cult pop-up that operates out of east London pub The Gun. Ling Lings meal kit champions modern Chinese cuisine, and features four courses including prawn, chicken and Thai basil wontons; smoky bavette noodles with pork puffs and pickles; and matcha and white chocolate tiramisu. Other partnerships we have coming up are with chef Paris Rosina, who has run a number of retro-inspired supper clubs with dishes including chicken Kiev and Russian salad; and the Brixton-based smokehouse Ruben’s Reubens, which is run by Ruben Daw. The Dishpatch team come from the restaurant industry and this project has been about using that knowledge to look for chefs offering unique ideas and dishes.

Delivery-and-meal-kit-business-Dishpatch-looks-to-a-give-platform-to-lesser-known-voices-with-Spotlight-initiative

With restrictions easing and most restaurants now open again, where does that leave the meal kit market?
It’s still pretty strong. We have to remember that these kits didn’t exist two years ago, and this time last year, with the country back in lockdown again, it was really blowing up. At Dispatch we saw a correction on that when restaurants begun reopening in the early summer, but since August we’ve grown month on month by around 20%. Our December 2021 was twice as big as December 2020, and our January numbers are, at the moment, consistent with those from April last year when the sector was still shuttered for the most part. It’s not quite where it was, but it’s clear it’s not going to go away and it’s continuing to grow in a sustainable way.

Dishpatch most recently released a meal kit by Michel Roux Jr. indicating there is still an appetite for big name chefs to come on to your platform. What is the enduring appeal for them?
Dishpatch is a partnership. We work with the restaurants to develop the menu and advise them on the product development, and we’re selective about who we partner with. What we’re seeing from the restaurant side is that while they’re now open, they’re not out of the woods in terms of the difficulties they are facing. Between staffing, Omicron and the rising costs of supplies and utilities, it’s a perfect storm. All restaurants, including those that always have had and still have queues out the door, are looking to diversify their revenue streams. Historically the only real option has been for restaurants to use third party delivery platform, but that just doesn’t work for a lot of the higher-end restaurants that we work with, and so for them meal kits is such an obvious solution.

Is that where you see the focus of the meal kit market going forwards?
Yes, for chef-led restaurants it is a great way for them to reach a wider demographic. At Dispatch, around 65% of orders are outside of London and the average distance between restaurant and consumer is 77 miles. We have customers in every corner of the UK. There are people around the country who love great food but do not have the access to the sort of diverse restaurant scene of a major city like London, and that’s what we’re bringing to them.

What’s the biggest challenge for the meal kit market in the year ahead?
Meal kits is still a very new category for lots of consumers and there’s still millions of people that haven’t bought or tried one.  In three to five years’ time ordering a meal kit is going to become as common place as ordering a hot food delivery or going to a restaurant, and the challenge for Dishpatch and everyone in the space is working out how we get that initial experience in front of as many people of possible. We’re in the foothills of the meal kit market and we want to grow that as much as we can.

Related topics: Trends & Reports, Restaurant

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