Ready-made meals doing a brisk trade
YOUNG professionals and busy parents may be starved for time but thanks to Jess Daniell they certainly aren’t going hungry.
Ms Daniell is the brains behind Jess’ Underground Kitchen, which has been providing Aucklanders with home-cooked takeaway meals since February. Thanks to social media and a dash of ingenuity business is booming.
The 28-year-old cooks healthy but hearty dishes from a commercial kitchen three nights a week.
Customers place orders through her Facebook page and their dinner is ready for them to collect from Ms Daniell’s Freemans Bay villa on their way home.
She can make anywhere from 60 to 100 orders a night.
Each week brings new customers entirely through word of mouth.
The company has been marketed purely through Facebook since it began and Ms Daniell hasn’t felt the need to use a website yet.
It was a friend’s appetite for her cooking that inspired the foodie to put her marketing and food writing skills to work in the kitchen.
‘‘My friend said she knew so many people who would pay to eat my meals every night of the week and I thought maybe I could just try it and if it covers our food bill that’s great. ‘‘It’s just grown from there.’’ Ms Daniell has no professional training in the kitchen but says that’s what sets her apart in such a competitive market.
‘‘I think that comes out in my meals.
‘‘When people pick up my meals it feels like I’m a friend cooking for them even if I don’t know them.
‘‘It’s not fancy restaurant food – it’s just good quality, home-cooked food.’’
The menu is influenced by Ms Daniell’s travels and includes everything from Thai curry to Mexican burritos.
But it is her beef and mozzarella lasagne that is most popular among hungry customers.
Customer demand has prompted her to introduce soups, frozen meals and dishes prepared for those who follow paleo and vegetarian diets.
The next step is to work out how to reach the families and workers who can’t make it to Freemans Bay to pick up their meals during rush-hour traffic.
A delivery service may be in the pipeline.
Ms Daniell says she is considering the options of growing the business to include franchises in New Zealand or even in Australia in the future.
‘‘I think there could really be a market for it.’’
But she says it is important not to lose the kitchen’s underground feel.
‘‘I really don’t want to commercialise. I’m quite aware of that and I think as long as I keep it small enough and don’t go down that route I can keep it personable.’’
Dinner’s ready: Jess Daniell’s Underground Kitchen is providing busy Aucklanders with more than standard takeaway fare for dinner.