eKitchenette - Serving the food industry the CoVid era and beyond ybkbs small business news for smart business owners
eKitchenette - Serving the food industry the CoVid era and beyond

eKitchenette: Serving the Food Industry in the COVID Era and Beyond

In challenging times, innovative solutions are called for. And for three local entrepreneurs from Leicester, the pandemic inspired them to come up with a creative way to support local restaurants and food businesses. 

Thomas Edde, Ali Datoo, and George Martin founded eKitchenette, an app that combines influencer marketing and online ordering to build a trusted community of food business owners, influencers, and consumers. I met Thomas via Zoom this week to learn more about the business and the team’s journey so far.

eKitchenette - A Very Different Type of Connection
eKitchenette: The Story So Far

The team unveiled eKitchenette at the Leicester Startups Accelerator Day on April 1 2021. This programme supports local startups through funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

The team took part in a 6-week intensive programme where they learned a huge amount, all of which has helped them in their journey.

“Leicester Startups not only believed in us, but really helped us in our journey towards building a solid foundation and equipping us with the tools needed to meet our stakeholders: restaurants and influencers – and of course, consumers’ – expectations,” Thomas says. 

But the story behind eKitchenette goes back much further. Thomas and Ali met around two years ago and connected over their shared goal of supporting the local food economy. George has worked in the food industry from a young age and is currently finishing his degree in Pharmacology alongside working with eKitchenette. 

Over the last year, they identified the ways in which food businesses struggled to adapt to the changing market demands caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “It was difficult for them to switch from a traditional business model to a fully digital set-up,” Thomas says. This was when the idea for the app was born. 

Thomas and Ali took part in IBM Design Thinking workshops (for whom Thomas currently also works) and focused on identifying the problems restaurant owners were facing. The concept and design of eKitchenette was based on these problems and what the founders saw as their solutions. 

“We want to help food-based businesses with their marketing in the long term,” Thomas says, “but in the short term we also want to help them get back on track in the post-Covid world.” 

The team currently all work part-time and remotely, but hope to take eKitchenette full-time and set up a physical office in Leicester when it is safe and financially viable to do so. 

Team of eKitchenette
How it Works

The premise behind eKitchenette is simple. Restaurant owners can upload menus and special dishes to the app, and connect with influencers who want to promote them. Influencers choose which dishes to promote, and post pictures and details of the food to their relevant social media channels. Their followers can then click the attached special link to order for delivery, click and collect, or make an advanced booking to dine in. Once a sale is made, the influencer receives a commission. 

“What we believe is that anyone can be an influencer,” Thomas says. “Anyone who is passionate about food and their local restaurants can engage with their followers and promote their favourite dishes. We want to create a symbiotic relationship between the restaurant, the influencer, and the consumer.” 

The data shows that influencer marketing is hugely successful. According to Awin, millennials trust influencers more than they trust celebrities, and customers read an average of 10 online reviews before trusting a business. “Ultimately, we’re trying to build a trusted community,” Thomas explains. “We’re behind the scenes providing the platform, but influencers and consumers can help their local restaurants by promoting amazing food.” 

Influencers and restaurants within a specific niche can easily find one another through the app. For example, a vegan influencer could connect with vegan-friendly restaurants, or someone with a passion for Asian food could work with Asian restaurants. Restaurants can hand-select influencers to work with, or choose to allow anyone to promote them. 

Joining eKitchenette is free for both businesses and influencers. There are no sign-up fees, and payments are only due after a sale. This means there is zero risk to either party. 

eKitchenette also collects robust engagement data, allowing business owners to gain a deeper insight into their customers’ views and preferences. This information can be used in developing new dishes, improving recipes, and enhancing future marketing campaigns for better results. 

Lessons Learned

I asked Thomas about what he and the team have learned through this process and what advice he would give to people looking to start their own business. 

“At IBM we say ‘think, prepare, rehearse’,” he says. “It’s a cycle. As you rehearse, you might realise there’s something wrong and rethink what you’re doing. Then you can try again and again in a series of iterations.”

Thomas also advised that new business owners take a “bootstrapping” approach when they’re starting out. “If you start with minimal or no funding, that’s where you challenge yourself to the maximum,” he says. “Do it because you’re passionate. Do it on the side until you feel that you’ve cornered the right solution. Then you can seek funding and investment.”

“Stretch your discovery phase before you invest too much into launching or development,” he adds. “This will validate that no matter what scenario is thrown at you, your plan will see you through. Ask for feedback and welcome it.” 

The discovery phase for eKitchenette can be traced back around five years to when Thomas first had an idea, and has been refined since he met Ali two years ago. We think the results speak for themselves! 

How can you get involved?

eKitchenette will go live on 1 June 2021. A number of influencers have already signed up, along with 29 restaurants from across the UK in cities including Leicester, London, Cardiff, and Birmingham. The team hopes to have more members before the official launch and are encouraging restaurants and influencers from anywhere in the UK to sign up. 

You can do so by visiting the eKitchenette website and contacting the team

Do you have a story?

Do you have a small business success story from the COVID-19 era? Drop us a line if so – we’d love to talk to you.

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