“People are just very busy,” says Hetty McKinnon, cook, vegetarian and passionate supporter of the Surry Hills community. “I wish my clients didn’t sit at their desks and eat, but a lot of them have to. Sometimes they just don’t have time to go out and sit in a cafe, but they want to eat healthy food.”
McKinnon is the one woman show behind healthy lunch delivery service Arthur Street Kitchen, a business that grew out of her love of vegetables, a passion for her local community and a need to feed those of us trapped in offices and tired of the same old lacklustre takeaway on offer.
After checking out what’s in season early in the week, McKinnon runs a healthy salad delivery service on Thursday and Friday, publishing the weekly menu on her website and taking orders via email. If you get in quickly and place an order you’ll be one of the lucky 50 or so people who not only get an Arthur Street Kitchen lunch, but will have it hand-delivered by McKinnon herself on her trusty bike. The smile and chitchat comes at no extra charge.
“Home-cooked and delivered food is certainly a drawcard,” enthuses McKinnon who prepares the food in a domestic kitchen setting. “People get sick of commercially made food. There’s just a difference with a home-cooked meal.”
But there’s also a special something about meeting the person who has actually cooked the food you’ll be eating, packed it and peddled it to your door. It’s a unique proposition and one that is growing all around Sydney.
Responding to her experiences working in PR – and disillusioned with her own lunch options – Clare Thompson began Chomp, servicing group lunch orders for offices. Working on a similar principle to McKinnon, the menu is kept tight and simple, with salads and sandwiches making up an offering of two options per week, focused on fresh ingredients and big flavours. Unlimited by location (Chomp deliveries are by car), it doesn’t really matter where your office is, as long as there’s a minimum order of five or more lunches going to the one spot.
“We always make and take a few extras to the offices because there are always people who forget to order, or only see us for the first time that day and all the extras always go.” says Thompson, who’s just returned from a delivery trip to Ryde.
“I’m a massive foodie. I live and breathe food. I go to bed reading cookbooks,” she chuckles. “I was used to a lot of really good packaged food available back home in the UK, like Prêt a Manger. So the idea came from missing good quality pre-made sandwiches.”
Chomp is only a few months old, but it’s the product of a couple of years planning and dreaming about bringing good food to offices stuck in culinary wastelands.
The crew behind Hungry Mondays have taken their home-cooked meals a step further with a combination of delivery and pick-up available from designated collection points.
“We’re doing about 1200 meals now just on a Monday,” says Ben Sampson who started Hungry Mondays to make use of the dead overnight hours in the kitchen at what was then El Capo. These days the team spend their energy on preparing the best pre-made, slow cooked, restaurant quality packaged meals to make eating at home (or in your office) a better experience for the time-poor. This includes hosting a slew of guest chefs to bring creative energy to the kitchen and extending what was a Monday concept right through the week, as well as adding pick-up points that now range from Wynyard and Ultimo in the CBD to Bondi and Parramatta.
“Monday most weeks we don’t have enough. It’s become more than Mondays,” laughs Sampson of the success of the business. But he’s quick to point out that in order to maintain the quality that draws people to their meals, they aren’t interested in growing too quickly.
“I think there’s more awareness of good quality food now. We love the idea of it, but most people don’t have the time to cook it. People still want restaurant quality food, but we don’t necessarily want to go out. So we’re taking it to them.”
For all the diversity in the three delivery businesses, there is still a set of common factors: great food, made fresh, delivered to you, with smiles free of charge.