In the past year, the marriage of food and tech has received a boost as innovative thinkers come out of the woodwork to combine two of the world’s biggest passion areas.
Saucepan is a ready-made food delivery service launched by three Hyatt employees who are looking to tap this market.
Co-founders Simon Vogel and Wolfgang Illing had served in the Hyatt hotel for more than five years. Wolfgang was assistant director of food & beverage, while Simon was event services manager. Saucepan’s current Corporate Chef, Patrick Trisch, was also a sous chef at the Hyatt.
“I wanted to leave corporate culture,” said Simon. “I had urge to figure out what to do next, and work on my vision.”
At first, the team thought of opening a restaurant in Shanghai, an obvious option for the Ex-Hyatt managers. However, they soon found out the market has been already too saturated.
“We realized that it’s more difficult to open new restaurant in Shanghai now, considering the high rents,” Vogel said. “So we decided to enter the food delivery market, which has huge opportunities.”
“Shanghai has a fast growing food tech and mobile tech scene, which leads to interesting market dynamics,” Illing noted.
Once customers choose a meal through the Saucepan website, fresh ingredients are delivered to their home so that they can prepare the food and enjoy it. “We’re not promoting cooking, and our consumers can prepare and heat the food usually within five minutes,” Illing added.
They offer chemical free vegetables sourced from the top suppliers in the city, something difficult to ensure in China. “Ingredients in [a high-end Shanghai restaurant] are 20% more expensive than ours,” Illing said.
The name ‘Saucepan’ represents their European style, as saucepans are not commonly used in Chinese cooking. However, the company combines European, South East Asian and Middle Eastern flavors.
Saucepan has few competitors in the industry, like Xinwei Cook and Hey-Chef, who provide dessert ingredients. On-demand chef services like Haochushi, Shaofanfan and Whichef are also operating in the market.
The three expat co-founders in Shanghai, said that starting the business was not easy at all. “Setting up a company was comparably not that hard, but the difficulties we had to face were regulations, procedures and culture difference issues.”
“We tried to think of a product that can enter the China market too” Illing added. “Expats will leave the area someday, and your main consumers should be Chinese at the end of the day.”