Is there a solution when you don’t want to cook but you’re sick of takeout?
Umi Kitchen wants to be it. The app, launched by the daughter of Shake Shack and Union Square Cafe restaurateur Danny Meyer, allows home cooks to list their meals on an app for delivery. Fittingly for a startup entering both the sharing economy and the food delivery wars, the meals are delivered by Postmates.
Umi Kitchen has been available through a pilot program in Brooklyn since April, but the iOS app launches in Manhattan on Tuesday.
Its investors include Danny Meyer, the founders of Sweetgreen, Elizabeth Cutler of Soul Cycle and Hayley Barna of Birchbox. The $1.4-million seed round last year was led by David Tisch and Adam Rothenberg at Box Group.
Most startups that have tried to connect home cooking with delivery do so through the Blue Apron model, in which ingredients are delivered to homes. Umi Kitchen is trying a different approach.
“Food is one of the frontiers where nobody’s truly figured out how to marry and democratize peer-to-peer and the sharing economy and the emotional ethics of home cooking,” Umi Kitchen co-founder Khalil Tawil told Mashable. “We’re providing a unique take that didn’t exist in the marketplace.”
Meyer is not the only popular NYC chef/restauranteur to explore the meal delivery market. David Chang, known for his Momofuku restaurants, has Ando, which is an on-demand delivery-only restaurant, and Maple, which also offers high-quality meal delivery.
Customers interested in Umi Kitchen can download the app and select a number of portions of a meal from a home cook, along with an hourlong dinner delivery time frame. The portions cost about $15 each around the same as a takeout restaurant meal and the cooks make foods like beef stew, meatloaf, roast salmon and pad thai. Customers can order up to a week in advance and must order by 2 p.m. for day-of delivery.
The meals come with a list of ingredients and a personal note. Many chefs advertise meals planned for certain diets, like gluten free or vegan food preferences or more specific diets like Whole30.
Don’t warm up your stove just yet. Cooks have to apply to get on the app. Right now, the startup has about 40 New York kitchens operating and 380 applications in. Because Umi Kitchen outsources its delivery to Postmates, the chefs are only required to cook not package the food before delivery. The company says its chefs are all food-safety trained and food-handler certified.
The delivery zone in Manhattan is from 116th Street to Houston Street and 5th Avenue to the East River.
Tawil and Hallie Meyer conceived of the company while graduate students at Yale University. Both missed home cooking and thought an app that delivered home-cooked meals would appeal to students and others who were homesick. The name “Umi” comes from the Arabic word for “my mother.”
For Meyer, 23, founding Umi Kitchen meant following in the family tradition.
“My whole life has been surrounded by these experiences of hospitality and home cooking,” Meyer said. “It was something I was always interested in, growing up in the restaurant business in New York.”
Meyer and Tawil are focused on the New York launch right now but see Umi Kitchen expanding to other cities in the future.
With the support of one of New York’s all-time most successful restaurateurs and and the names behind some of the buzziest companies in food and tech, the app certainly has a shot.
“We’re excited about this particular food sharing-economy model,” Meyer said. “This is something you want to do three or four times a week. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion.”