Interview: CampusChef – Lancaster’s ‘Uber for Food’

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Image: CampusChef

SCAN sat down with Tyron Tsang, one of the co-founders of CampusChef; a new business aimed at bringing chefs and students together to enjoy home-cooked and cheap food on campus.

Q) What is CampusChef and what do they do?

A) CampusChef is a platform to link up inspiring chefs and people who love cooking and connecting with the community to allow them to taste a variety of food that they don’t necessarily taste on campus. We are restricted to different things and we want them to taste a variety of cuisines from different countries and different people.

Q) How did the idea of CampusChef come about?

A) We started off as Campus Saint in our first year and we have since pivoted from it. With Campus Saint, we wanted to get students to do different tasks that built upon things students complained at, such as laundry or taking out the trash, so that’s when we thought about starting a business where people can sign-up and agree to do these tasks while getting paid.

We also wanted to diversify into cooking or someone needing tutoring so that we could make a whole community of people doing things for each other.
However, we realised that this was making our business too broad and so we decided to focus only on food. This is because I live in town and there are two problems; which is that I hate cooking and got tired of eating expensive food in town, which lacked variety.

I also found out that there are so many talented cooks around the university who specialise in Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and many other cuisines but there was no platform for people to link up and connect the chefs and students so that is why we deviated away from Campus Saint and started Campus Chef.

Q) How do you plan to market Campus Chef on campus?

A) We met with the President of the Entrepreneur Society and conducted feedback sessions to find ways to get CampusChef in the public domain.
Our app is currently under development and once we become a legal entity, we will start applying for various funding and sponsorship that will go towards marketing and advertisements to try and get different people interested in our project.
We want to have events at The Deli and Pizzetta where chefs can get-together and cook and where people can taste their food and get validation of the quality.

Q) What is the current state of the business and how is the team planning to expand?

A) It has been great and we are continuing to grow internally. We have expanded our team to 8 people and recently hired a designer who we met at Start-up Weekend Lancaster who is currently doing our logos and graphic designing.
Had I not attended Startup Weekend, I would not have met her so she has been really good in her work with her work.Currently our team is looking for someone who is good at Marketing so we are looking at options right now.

Q) What is Campus Chef’s revenue stream?

A) At the moment, we just want traction. We are not looking to make money right now. Whatever the chef’s are selling is what they get until we get approved. So if you are a chef and you post food, its all yours. However, once our app gets developed, we will charge a commission from people which will fund our platform.

Q) Have you looked at the risk of chef’s leaving Campus Chef and selling privately once they have gained enough demand?

A) Chefs leaving us after building a good customer-base was a concern when we made the platform.
However, to counteract this, we have spoken to a lot of people who have experience in situations like these. I met a guy from Manchester named Henry Barkley from Start-up Weekend who suggested that if we make the platform and service better and draw up terms and contracts with the chefs, people will be less likely to leave us. This is because contracts are fundamental and it is easy for us to see whether people are breaking terms and conditions because they would be posting and advertising to promote their food which we will eventually find out about.

We are also looking to offer incentives such as ‘Chef of the Month’ based on reviews and ratings they get and also giving them extra money, prizes and awards so that we can build a good relationship with them.

Q) How can one become a chef through Campus Chef and how can you guarantee the safety of the food?

A) At the moment, people message us directly on Facebook but once the app is ready, people can just sign up. We will contact them directly and get their interviews.
In terms of safety, there are a lot of people asking us whether our chefs are tested. LUSU and the Enterprise Centre have collaborated where they are paying people to get the chef’s food standards validated and allow them to obtain hygiene certificates.
To become a chef, we need people who are willing to work part time and can cook quality food because I know there is a restriction of jobs on campus. So we offer a platform where they can earn extra money, provided they satisfy the criteria of working as a chef.

Q) How has the University as a whole helped you and have you considered other food outlets on campus that will be affected?

A) The Enterprise Centre has been very efficient and helpful because there are so many new start-ups in Lancaster which they want to promote further.
The Enterprise Centre has guided us over a lot of matters, particularly some important ones where we need to obtain agreements from stakeholders of the university, such as restaurants, to ensure our business runs properly and smoothly.
Nonetheless, we are finding ways around getting all campus restaurants to co-operate. We are thinking of hosting nights at Pizzetta where people can buy things and we give them commission based on our sales. However, it is business at the end of the day

Q) What’s Campus Chef’s future strategy? If successful, are you planning to grow to other universities?

A) I have a friend who studies in UCL who saw our advertisement on Facebook and he understands the community and our idea well. He asked if we could bring the idea of CampusChef to them in London but I said we are still in the testing phase so we don’t want to expand without making our base in Lancaster.
However, in the future we do want to expand to other universities by hiring ambassadors for each university and starting a community there too.

Q) Do you have any competitors and if so, what is the difference between your business models?

A) We have a competitor in Warwick called Frecibo that focus on healthy food. Ours is home cooked food and it is promoting the chefs because we care deeply about our chefs. We want to post stories about our chefs, why they cook, where they are from and why they do this. It allows you to deeply connect with chefs in the community and food they serve.