The Business Wilderness podcast welcomed special guest Petko Petkov. Petko is the CEO of Chefin, an online platform where food lovers connect with passionate chefs who create fresh, authentic meals in kitchens around Australia. Our goal is to provide convenience, diverse food choices and tailored social dining experiences for customers, along with an exciting creative outlet and alternative income stream for professional chefs.
Approximately three years ago, Mr Petkov noticed that people connected well over food, especially when his house mate was cooking and invited people over. Developed Chefin to solve a problem, by connecting chefs and consumers through an online marketplace.
The point of difference is that Chefin is a holistic company that takes care of more than just the interaction between chef and customer. They also tailor the experience to the customer's requirements, by having preferred venues where they can host functions. This includes corporate spaces, hired cafes and Air bnb homes. They even clean the hire out spaces afterwards.
It all began when Petko was a young kid, tasting his mother's food as she cooked all the wonderful things his young tummy desired. He credits this, as well as the strong culture around food in his native Bulgaria for his passion to make a difference in this space.
The hospitality industry can be best understood through the terms front house and back house. Front house is where the consumer interacts with the hospitality institution, entering the restaurant, waiting to be seated, customer service and all the other relevant aspects.
Back house is where the chefs work to make the restaurant's source of income and the inner workings of the behind the scenes. Mr Petkov notes that there are huge problems with both the front house and back house of hospitality.
In the front house, he sees long waiting times, set menus and lack of an interactive atmosphere as hurdles to progression of the industry. He also views the overworked chef in the back house as a barrier to innovation as they are doing 14-16 hours a day churning out the same menu day after day.
Chefin allows chefs to overcome liability factors such as rent, kitchen space and customers by providing that for the chefs. They are practically running their own restaurants, which they would be unable to do otherwise. It allows them to have flexible working hours, not have to worry about customers because they are brought to them through the marketplace and gives them the ability to be creative with their dishes. They also receive timely feedback from consumers without delay, allowing them to continuously innovate and improve.
Marketplaces are a tricky thing. It's difficult to know whether you should start with businesses or consumers or in this case, chefs or customers. In the beginning the focus was on obtaining chefs. Over time, they noticed that chefs were approaching them, so they could shift their focus away from chef acquisition and focus on customers.
They were even able to secure a couple of lucrative partnerships, which allowed them to provide an internship for young chefs and help them upskill. To gain customers, they began with the typical outreach methods of cold-calling, Linkedin messaging and email.
They have now moved on to partnerships with comapnies such as Red Balloon and Air bnb. This has been complemented with an increased online presence, particulary social media and specifically Instagram. There is also the corporate events they hold, which they hope to cater for, in return for promotion throughout the event.
In terms of growing the business, Mr Petkov says the aim is to consolidate and have a strong foothold in Sydney before moving anywhere else. There are bases in Melbourne and Brisbane and they are the likely expansion points after Sydney.
There is currently a massive issue of hospitality organisations closing down around the country. There are many new businesses and creative businesses at that. Those with creative businesses and the abiltity to maintain that creativity, will do well going into the future.
After a while, if these innovative/creative businesses last for the next 5 or so years, be them chains or sole traders, they will look to consolidate and if not they will probably close down. The biggest change for much of the hospitality industry to adapt to is the consumer centric nature of the market.
The mindset change is necessary if restaurants are going to stand out in and amongst the thousands of restaurants fighting for the customers attention. It has reached the point of 'evolve or die'.
We thank Mr Petkov for his intriguing insight into the world of hospitality and his willingness to innovate within the industry.
You can find Chefin on:
Listen to the full podcast below: