The founders of Umi Kitchen—a West Point grad, a former VP of Tumblr and restaurateur Danny Meyer’s daughter—won’t say that it’s a direct restaurant competitor, but the app that connects home cooks to diners has potential to steal a share of the foodservice dollar. And with backing and advice from both Meyer and the founders of growing fast casual Sweetgreen, the dining room-free concept is poised to be another disruptor for the industry. Here’s a look at how it works.
2. Home cooks, not pros
The Umi Kitchen team vets home cooks, who apply and present three recipes. “Before running an Umi kitchen, home cooks must go through an extensive screening, training and evaluation process,” says co-founder Khalil Tawil. Thus far, Umi has selected about 50 home cooks from more than 400 applicants in the Manhattan market. Once selected, cooks get Food Handler certified by ServSafe, and the Umi team conducts kitchen check-ups to ensure all kitchens meet Umi’s health, safety and quality standards, he says.
3. In-app diversity
Umi Kitchen’s app offers four to seven menu options that vary each day. Food is picked up from the homes of Umi’s cooks and delivered to customers via Postmates. The menu—with options priced at $12, $14 or $16, plus the standard $3.99 PostMates delivery charge—offers a wide array of foods, from traditional Indian and Italian to vegan and Paleo diet-specific.
4. Authentic...for real
It’s what today’s consumers are demanding: authentic food with a backstory. “One of Umi’s greatest strengths is the sheer diversity of potential options available. … Figuring out how to unify all of those offerings under the banner of ‘home cooking’ has been a fun challenge to tackle,” Tawil says. To solve for the vastness, as well as market some of the lesser-known ethnic foods, the team has been working with its home cooks on developing best practices around merchandising and telling the story behind those cuisines and methods of cooking.
5. Zero footprint, literally
Unlike many of the nonrestaurant restaurants such as Ando and Maple, Umi doesn’t need commissaries to cook from. At this point, Umi Kitchen solely is mobile-based, though the owners are working to expand to web-based ordering in the future, says Tawil.