From phone to table: Reno startup connects chefs with folks hungry for in-home dining
RENO, Nev. — A while back, Benjamin Griffith noticed something while gathered with family to celebrate his brother-in-law’s college graduation.
Griffith’s mother-in-law, he realized, spent most of her time preparing and cooking food in the kitchen, missing out one time with family and friends.
“She really got no time to spend her son’s graduation with everyone,” Griffith said in a phone interview with the NNBW.
It reinforced a business venture that Griffith, a Reno-based entrepreneur, had been chewing on with his friend Alexander Tash, a Kansas City-based entrepreneur he met in college.
What if, Griffith and Tash wondered, they created an app that connected chefs with people who wanted an intimate dining experience in the comfort of their own home?
With that, Homebite was born. Simply put, the app allows people to hire local chefs that create their own menus, dictate their own prices, and set their own schedule.
While Uber is synonymous with ridesharing, Homebite hopes to carve out its own niche in “foodsharing” for chefs.
“We saw the demand on the chef side,” said Griffith, CEO of Homebite. “We talked to other chefs and people who were looking for private chef services. And we just kind of found that there was a need. A lot of people that were doing private chef work were just going on Craigslist. And users were frustrated because they wanted an intimate dinner, but they didn’t want to hire a caterer, but that’s all that was out there that was easy to find.”
For more than a year, Griffith and Tash worked on cooking up their new startup venture. Tash, the Homebite CTO, oversaw the technical side while Griffith worked on building relationships and recruiting chefs in cities on the West Coast, the region the app is focusing on before going nationwide.
Griffith said chefs apply to become a member of Homebite through a web-based app. The application process includes a professional background check and a review of their experience and certifications.
Once approved, each chef receives their own profile, where they can post their resume, menus, pictures of their products, and more.
At-home diners — who pay a deposit when they book a chef and the remainder after the meal — can use the app to search for the culinary cuisine, dietary needs and pricing that matches their desires. Users can even message a chef directly for special requests.
Homebite had a soft launch in late February, recruiting and using mostly chefs from culinary schools, Griffith said. Weeks later, however, the coronavirus pandemic hit, shutting down culinary schools across the country, and putting Homebite on hold.
“We had to pivot completely and go away from culinary schools, and go more towards just finding chefs and restaurants that are looking to get their chefs work,” said Griffith, noting that recruiting chefs amid the pandemic has been a challenge.
However, with the spread of COVID-19 heavily impacting the restaurant industry, and keeping many would-be diners at home for fear of the virus, Griffith feels the appetite for in-home dining experiences is stronger than ever.
“I think it’s more desired now,” he said. “If you’re worried about getting COVID, but you still want to go out or even if you get takeout, how many people are touching your food? It’s nice to just have an intimate experience where one person can come and you know exactly who’s cooking your food.”
Griffith said Homebite, which is currently in beta stage, is planning to launch in time for the holidays. The startup is a member of two incubators, including Entrepreneurs Assembly in Reno and the KC Collective in Kansas City.
For Reno’s Marc Magarin, finding opportunities to collaborate with fellow creative thinkers and passionate entrepreneurs is what drew him into a coworking space.