Homemade meal delivery app Home Cook is closing its business down, according to messages sent to users on May 31, asking them to apply for refunds before June 1.

Why it matters: Home Cook’s collapse highlights the downfall of a once-popular fad, China’s homemade meal delivery apps, which promised to make home cooks into entrepreneurs from their kitchens.

Details: The app has been removed from the Apple China App Store and user registration for the app downloaded on Android platforms has ceased to work, TechNode has observed.

  • The Beijing-based company halted its operations in April, citing the impact from the coronavirus pandemic for the move, according to local media reports.
  • Company founder Tang Wanli, a former Alibaba employee, exited the company in 2019, according to Chinese business research platform Tianyancha.com.
  • As a top player in the sector, Home Cook had 3.5 million registered users and more than 40,000 merchants as of 2017.

Context: Founded in 2014, Home Cook is a mobile app that connected “merchants,” or home cooks, with local users looking to purchase homemade dishes. Orders could be picked up from sellers or arranged via third-party delivery service.

  • The service was a fad as part of the sharing economy concept in 2015, when rental services for cars, bikes, and offices created new opportunities for Chinese entrepreneurs.
  • However, users began to ebb as adoption of restaurant food deliveries grew increasingly mainstream and food security concerns started to draw regulator attention.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic, which put a halt on nearly every online-to-offline business, was the last straw for the struggling industry.
  • The company is competing with rivals like Mishi and Youfan.
  • China’s food security monitoring authority rolled out a notice in 2016, requiring all food operators to display their food production permits and business licenses in their stores.
  • This was a huge blow to homemade meal platforms, most of which only required IDs and health certificates to start a business.

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.