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FoodByUs wants to be Airbnb for your food

The sharing economy is coming for your kitchen. Sydney tech company FoodByUs has launched a new online marketplace that connects talented home cooks with people looking for more personal and authentic food.

“We’re bringing the Uber and Airbnb model over to food,” FoodByUs co-founder Ben Lipschitz said.

The marketplace invites home cooks to apply to become makers. After passing a quality and taste test, makers can advertise their food and accept orders on the company’s website and app. Buyers either pick up their meals directly from the makers or have them delivered.

While fellow FoodByUs co-founders Gary Munitz and Tim Chandler are alums of food delivery service Menulog, Lipschitz said the company is decidedly not in competition with the increasingly popular on-demand food delivery services.

“FoodByUs really stands on its own in this space. It’s not a Deliveroo or Foodora which have to do with restaurants. It’s really about building a community of home-based cooks,” Lipschitz said of the company which has received $2 million in funding.

Like Uber and Airbnb, FoodByUs is intended as a way for people to earn a little extra income from something they already have or do, in this case cook. Lipschitz said makers are currently seeing orders of $500 per week, which he sees trending to over $800 per week as the business grows.

The appeal of the sharing economy model for makers is clear, but what draws consumers to use Uber and Airbnb – and potentially FoodByUs – over more traditional service providers? Value and authenticity, according to Lipschitz.

“Because our makers don’t have the overhead that restaurants or food retailers have, you’re going to find that the food is a better value for the buyer,” he said. Of course, restaurateurs not only have expenses like rent and décor, but also costs associated with meeting food safety regulations.

FoodByUs takes a number of precautions to ensure that food sold through its marketplace is safe to eat. For starters, it vets all the makers and tastes their food before approving them. In addition, it requires every buyer to review every purchase. “So buyers know that someone is still making good food, not just when we tested it three months ago,” Lipschitz explained.

Ultimately, however, FoodByUs isn’t competing on price – which is set by makers anyway – but rather on the experience. “It’s really authentic food that you can’t get anywhere else,” Lipschitz said.

Authenticity is supposedly what drives tourists to stay in local homes through Airbnb rather than hotel rooms. Airbnb’s “Live there” slogan (previously “Belong anywhere”) hints at the idea that accommodation can be more than just a transaction.

In a similar way, FoodByUs aims to be more than just another place to buy the thing we all need to survive. “We encourage our buyers to meet their maker, to message them on the app and delve into their cooking philosophy,” Lipschitz said.

For some buyers, the range of vegan, gluten-free and paleo-friendly food is another reason to use FoodByUs. “There is a lot of appeal for those niche customers,” Lipschitz said. “But we do want to hit that broader market. We envision FoodByUs occupying a space in everybody’s mind when planning their weekly meals.”

The company has approved 143 makers in Sydney so far, the only location where it currently operates. Lipschitz said makers have applied in other Australian cities, and the company will consider expanding once there are enough users to support a marketplace. International expansion is also on the table.

“We have absolutely built the FoodByUs site so it can handle geographic differences like language, currency and tax. Right now our focus is firmly in Australia but we would love to go international with the idea,” Lipschitz said.

“Although we have already seen similar seeds of this idea happening in overseas markets, there is certainly no dominant international player like Uber or Airbnb.”

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