Updated: Aug 5, 2022
A South African food business that managed to benefit the chefs who prepare the meals as much as the customers who eat and enjoy them!
Kitchen Republik offers uniquely local, home-style cooked meals conveniently delivered straight to the homes of its customers. Yet their strong positive impact distinguishes them from any other ordinary takeaway or food delivery joint.
In a classic business model, there’s generally no difference between beneficiaries and customers, as those who are paying for a product are the ones who receive the value.
Nonetheless, Lisa Meyer and Brandon McCormack intended to create a social business that follows a positive impact model, that is two-fold. On the one hand, Kitchen Republik is able to serve its customers hearty, fresh meals reminiscent of home at an affordable price. On the other hand, they uplift, upskill, provide employment opportunities and create a platform that promotes local chefs.
Sometimes circumstances can change the business trajectory significantly
“When we first started out, we wanted to simply offer healthy meals to businesses. We believe that people often resort to mass-produced fast-food-style options while at work because of convenience. However, this makes them feel sluggish and impacts their performance and focus. Regardless, the pandemic sent us on an entirely different path”. Lisa Meyer, Co-Founder explains.
The beginning of the pandemic changed everything for Kitchen Republik. Firstly, a myriad of chefs in South Africa became suddenly unemployed. Secondly, there was no point in delivering any food to businesses anymore as people started working from home and restaurants had to close their doors, leaving many unemployed and businesses destroyed.
Kitchen Republik had to adapt its business model fast! They quickly changed their approach and immediately shifted focus to cater for private households.
Thus, Kitchen Republik’s initial understanding of who their customers were changed due to sudden inevitable circumstances. Fortunately, this shift sent Lisa and Brandon on a path that turned out to be even more fulfilling, creating opportunities to increase the positive impact of their social enterprise.
“When we started out, at the very beginning, our customers' friends and family. We started trying Google Ads, which also helped us get our very first customers. To the point that right now most of our customers are regular South African working-class individuals and private households, who order our food online or via WhatsApp. We especially cater for families with children as we are able to provide them with a decent meal that always tastes homemade. This is perfect for a busy working family where time to cook is scarce. People get homestyle meals, made from honest and fresh ingredients as opposed to mass-produced or fast-food-style food. It’s food that they would cook themselves if they had the time. Our food tastes as you made it in your own kitchen.” Co-Founder Brandon McCormack says.
It turned out that changing the trajectory of the business model was not only necessary, even though it was unexpected and scary at first. It allowed an opportunity for them to uplift many newly unemployed chefs through their platform. What started off as a scary but necessary change turned out to be the best thing to happen to the business.
Currently, the business is striving and Lisa and Brandon were able to grow and diversify their offering by adding optional family and couple portions while empowering chefs simultaneously. Although Kitchen Republik is very much aware of who their customers are currently, they are still trying to better understand their ideal target market.
“We sometimes feel we struggle to identify a specific target market, but we are working on it mostly by maintaining an open line of communication with our customers in the form of inquiring consistent customer feedback. This in turn helps with marketing and quality control. When I look at all our different customers, I see that they have one thing in common; they care about where their food comes from as much as they want to support local chefs and have a soft spot for home-style cooking!” Lisa Meyers says.
Kitchen Republik is a food delivery service that uplifts and upskills local chefs
Kitchen Republik has a strong focus on uplifting and promoting local chefs in whichever way possible through their platform. People who have talent but not the means to promote themselves or find employment can join the Kitchen Republik team.
“During every first interview with a chef who wants to work for us, we try to figure out who they are as a person and then try to identify how we can support and uplift this particular chef. Helping chefs and empowering them is very important to us and not every chef is the same. Their individual needs can be very different. By getting to know a chef we learn about how we can add value to their life. We also try to identify skills and experiences, dreams, wishes and challenges and then we establish together how we can work together in a way that benefits both sides.” Brandon says.
Loyal customers who share your vision are invaluable!
Kitchen Republik managed to build a customer base that shares its vision of uplifting local chefs!
To add additional value to their customers, Kitchen Republik recently added a voucher system and value adds to their offering. They also advertise their daily changing meals through emailers and on social media. Kitchen Republik has refined its offering further by including a range of light meals and snacks. “Especially during lunch time, people working from home don’t want to eat heavy meals while working as it makes them tired. That’s why we came up with a range of fresh and healthy light meals.” Lisa Meyers says
We often get feedback from customers and take it very seriously. All feedback is gold and we try to take criticism. Our chefs also test out recipes to finesse their craft.