Six months ago, Chris Pastrana had no job. He was just getting by, a student at San Joaquin Delta College, studying culinary arts. But then he saw a Craigslist ad:
The ExtraPlate App! NEW APP! Cook, Make $$
It was a call for people who love to cook in the Sacramento Region and beyond. The perks looked too good to be true: cook when you want, set your own price, earn between $300 to $1,000 a week. Was it a scam? Pastrana had nothing to lose, so he went to the ExtraPlate website and submitted an application to become an approved seller.
Now, out of his own house, he runs Noni’s Kitchen, where he specializes in Filipino cuisine: chicken and pork adobo, beef afritada, kare-kare, lumpia and some desserts like bibingka. Lunch and dinner plates run $10 to $12 and so far, he has sold more than four dozen to his local community.
“It’s been a great response,” he says. “When I first started off, it was friends and family, and from there I was able to connect with my family’s coworkers for lunch.”
ExtraPlate puts homecooked meals on the map as an on-demand food marketplace that works like Uber or Lyft for hungry consumers.
Grant Rosenquist came up with the concept in February 2015. As a financial controller for a local publishing company in Sacramento, he would get home around 10 p.m. Most restaurants were closed by then. He didn’t feel like cooking, but he wondered how many of his neighbors had extra food from dinner.
“There’s a supply of people that make great food,” he says, “and an increasing supply of people who don’t have time to make great food. With special technology, we could create a market which didn’t exist before.”
Since launching in April, ExtraPlate has received more than 3,400 customer downloads with sellers and customers in four states. There are 350 approved sellers on the network, including caterers, urban farmers and food trucks. Rosenquist says 60 percent of the sellers currently work in restaurants. Many leverage the app to see how the public reacts to off-the-menu fare.
“We have cuisines you won’t find in restaurants,” he says. “We have a lady that’s cooking Native Indian tacos, we have Mongolian food, there’s Puerto Rican food, meals for specialty diets like vegan and Paleo. One person says, ‘I only make my own spiced paprika.’ Another one says, ‘I don’t cook at all, but I have bees and I’m going to try and sell my honey.’”
Rosenquist notes that the app empowers people who have a passion for food to start their own business on the side, with no restaurant experience needed. You could even grow oranges in your backyard and sell those on the app. ExtraPlate provides marketing support and handles the cashless transactions.
Rosenquist never had his own food business. He did work at Commander’s Palace, a landmark restaurant in New Orleans, for four years, but his background is finance and economics. In December 2015, he linked up with Jimmy Crabbé, known for his innovative tactics as former CEO Bonney Plumbing and an investor in other local companies. Initially, Crabbé had planned to be an investor, but he believed in the product so much he signed on as a co-founder.
Rosenquist thought about launching the app in the Bay Area, but he says Sacramento’s small-time vibe and the farm-to-fork movement made the capital city ideal as a test market before expanding. They started with a seed round and recently finished an angel round with their sights set on crossing $1 million in funding within the next few months to expedite the expansion. The app is free: The business makes money by adding a convenience fee up to 20 percent, depending on the food type, the seller and other variables.
Of course, there is skepticism that comes with anything unfamiliar, but Rosenquist believes that will soon change, especially with the cross-marketing partnership the app has with the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. Health regulations vary depending on the location. Similar to Ebay, Etsy or Airbnb, ExtraPlate views sellers as independent business owners, expecting them to comply with local laws. A customer review system will help the app maintain a high standard and quality. (Any complaint relative to quality that may result in a foodborne illness would get a seller immediately kicked off the network.)
“Our stance is simple: If you could produce food legally, we can authorize,” Crabbé says. “This is not just a way to connect buyers and sellers of home-cooked meals, but a way to truly create a marketplace for food.”
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