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In a delivery-forward world, the ghost kitchen model is taking over the restaurant industry, and Cook + Thief is at the forefront of the movement. 

From the co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith, the brand is giving a new face to restaurant delivery, by bringing some of the hottest restaurants and their menus under one roof. So whether you order a Tom Griffiths dirty burger or an Ollie Dabbous strawberry cheesecake, it will be sure to arrive in pristine condition, on 100% biodegradable packaging so beautiful you can eat straight from it.

We sat down with founder and CEO Andrew Grahame to find out the details.

How did the company start?

Ultimately we want to become the world’s most compelling brand for people who love great food.

Mr & Mrs Smith is 17 years old this year and it’s still one of the most exciting luxury travel brands in the world. One of the main learnings from my experience there was how to turn a great idea into a lifestyle brand where every customer becomes a raving fan. This unwavering focus on delivering an incredible customer experience was really the inspiration behind Cook + Thief. As the delivery revolution began five years ago it was clear that whilst the big tech brands were focusing on their software, those of us that love great food had no one brand to fall in love with. That’s where we fit in.

What makes the restaurant delivery market ripe for disruption and how is Cook + Thief equipped to disrupt it?

We all crave convenience. More and more of us want to eat home without having to cook. But for those of us that care about the food we eat, if we don’t want to cook, we end up having to compromise with a take-in that is poorer in quality compared to what you’d order at a restaurant. We recognised very early on that the only way to ensure that we can bring you delicious dishes in pristine condition, was to develop our own proprietary technology that could protect each dish in transit. It’s this technology that enables us to work with the very best restaurants and chefs which in turn enables us to reinvent the takeaway experience and disrupt the restaurant delivery market.

What is a ghost kitchen and what technology has Cook + Thief developed to own this market?

In its simplest form a ghost kitchen is a delivery-only restaurant. Until recently restaurant delivery aggregators have offered what they call “dark kitchens” as additional restaurant units (typically shipping containers in carparks) as a way of expanding their offering to areas where there are “cuisine gaps”. We want to change all that. Rather than single cuisine offerings we bring a whole host of restaurants under one single menu. Rather than shipping containers we operate from state-of-the art kitchens in areas where we can reach the largest number of our target market. 

What menus from different venues are available at the moment and are there more in the pipeline?

We only launched three months ago and already we are working with some of the hottest restaurants and their superstar chefs from Michelin-starred supremos like Ollie Dabbous and Andrew Wong. But whether you fancy Chinese, Thai, Vegan, Grill or desserts, there is something for every palette and every purse. But we are not stopping there, in a few weeks we are looking to announce new Spanish, Indian and Japanese cuisines which is incredibly exciting. 

What are the company’s core values?

We have three pillars for the brand which act as our guiding principles. Firstly, we only work with the best – the most exciting restaurant brands and the best chefs out there. Secondly, we want our food to be enjoyed by all, no matter what cuisine it is, there’s something on the menu for everyone. Lastly, it shouldn’t cost the earth to eat what you want. All of our packaging is 100% biodegradable with no single use plastics in sight.

What was one of the most exciting successes so far?

There have been quite a few incredible milestones this year from proving our back-box technology and partnering with our famous restaurants to building our talented team, but for us the standout success has been the remarkable customer reviews which have been more than we ever expected. 

What will be a challenge going forward, is finding, recruiting and training the chefs and rider-waiters quickly enough to expand at the rate we want. We won’t ever compromise on the quality of the dishes we create and will only scale when we are confident we have the team in place to do it.

How has the business adapted to a post-Covid world?

As well as ensuring we take all the necessary steps to comply with Covid regulations we are of course fortunate to be a brand that benefits from more people staying at home. However, we owe the brand to the restaurants we partner with and we are doing everything we can to support them during this challenging time. By introducing our Wings Membership, customers will soon be able to enjoy exclusive offers at each of our partner restaurants helping to drive footfall (and therefore revenue) back to an industry sector hit hardest by the lockdown restrictions.

What are you looking forward to most about crowdfunding?

Well, checking our investment coming in on a daily basis may be even more addictive than an Ollie Dabbous’ vanilla cheesecake…maybe. Joking aside, we actually can’t wait to see the brand skyrocket and realise its full potential, reaching millions of food lovers everywhere. 

What’s your passion outside of work?

Apart from food? That’ll be food. And travel of course. And food. 

What’s your favourite dish on the menu?

I decided early on not to have anything in the menu I don’t absolutely love (hence why you won’t find any aubergine anywhere in sight) but there are some dishes I choose quite a lot – Andrew Wong’s black bean cod is wonderful and Tom Griffith’s Ox Cheek Suet Dumpling is the ultimate comfort food. But in all honesty, they are all great.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to the future, food-loving generation?

Don’t compromise. Great food may be harder to find but it doesn’t have to cost the earth and it’s definitely worth it. 

To find out more about Cook + Thief, visit the pitch now.