Plating is a Korean startup with in-house chefs. We talk to its CEO Paul Jang to find out more
It is lunchtime when I walk into Plating’s office, housed in a short nondescript building tucked behind a crowded, busy Apgujeong shopping street in Seoul, South Korea.
Plating is a Korean startup working on delivering chef-cooked meals to people ordering through its official mobile app. There isn’t a web-based solution yet.
Everyone except Plating CEO Paul Jang and I is chopsticks deep into shared, communal dishes, stopping only to say hello to us. Jang points at one of the chefs who is seated in between other employees and is aptly wearing an apron.
There are two parts to the office space: an open area lined with chairs and tables for employees to check on orders and other admin matters, and a medium-sized kitchen for the chef to prepare meals for delivery later on in the day.
Every day, a chef goes into the kitchen and cooks up 50 to 60 meals, which Plating users will then purchase for dinner. At the moment, the company only serves dinner, and delivers within a five-kilometre radius from its office location.
“Our meals are made for microwave,” says Jang, who adds that this has made it difficult for the company to find chefs willing to come up with suitable recipes.
Out of these 50 to 60 meals, one third of the purchases are from customers who reserve and schedule a time for delivery, while the remaining two thirds are from ones who want it on-demand.
“We try to under-produce,” he says, noting that it is difficult to predict just how many meals they need to prepare per day, since most of the orders would only come in later in the evening.
The meals would then be outsourced and delivered via another food delivery company called Foodfly. While this is working well, Jang thinks that Plating should start delivering using its own vehicles in the next six months.
“Delivery guys are the ones who actually have physical contact with our customers at the end. We want to start building that infrastructure,” he says.
Dinner is an everyday thing
“I’ve always been interested in something that people do every day,” says Jang, when asked why he decided to start Plating.
Prior to founding the startup in July 2015, he had spent over two years working on a lockscreen advertising startup which was sold to mobile shopping app company Wish. Then, he joined an architecture startup, which he later left to build Plating.
“Three months into it (architecture startup), I was building an MVP, but Primer CEO convinced me to come back to Korea,” he tells this author. Primer is a well-known angel investment firm in Korea, and its CEO is Douglas Guen.
“I met him (Guen) for the first time in the US, [and we] talked for three [to] four hours,” continues Jang.
Jang does not reveal everything the duo talked about, but says that his return had everything to do with Guen’s suggestion.
Guen also suggested that Jang should work on an idea to deliver raw meat on demand, but this did not work out after the latter researched and found out that there is a bigger opportunity in delivering ready-made meals within Korea.
“We tend to move very quickly,” he says. Having only returned to Korea in July 2015, Jang and his team launched Plating two or three months back, and have raised US$10,000 in seed funding from Primer.
Altogether, there are eight employees: four in the kitchen, and four managing other areas.
“We need a lot of hands,” he says, adding that the company is looking to hire more chefs, engineers and marketers.
“We’re a full-stack food delivery [company],” adds Jang. “A lot of other online food delivery companies like Baedal Minjok and Foodfly, they [connect] restaurants and customers, … but we’re trying to control the entire customer experience from food production to delivery. Basically, the entire thing,” he explains.
Fun project for chefs
While Plating sells main dishes at anywhere between KRW10,000 (US$8.46) to KRW12,000 (US$10.16), with a delivery fee of KRW3,500 (US$2.96), an undisclosed percentage goes to the chefs who spent time and effort preparing recipes and the actual meals.
“They’re already working in a restaurant,” says Jang. “In their spare time they come to our kitchen… We sell their food, we share the revenue. They see this as a fun project. You can get quite a bit but that’s not the main purpose.”
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