Several days a week, Jullet Achan moves around the kitchen of her apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, stirring up dishes from her Surinamese background: fragrant batches of goat curry, root vegetable soup and her own take on chicken chow mein.
She packages the meals, and they are picked up for delivery to customers who order through an app called WoodSpoon.
“Joining WoodSpoon has made a huge difference during the pandemic, giving me the flexibility to work safely from home and supplement my income,” Ms. Achan said in a news release from the company in February.
However, in the state of New York, there are no permits or licenses that allow individuals to sell hot meals cooked in their home kitchens. And WoodSpoon, a three-year-old start-up that says it has about 300 chefs preparing foods on its platform and has raised millions of dollars from investors, including the parent company of Burger King, knows it.
“It’s not legally allowed,” said Oren Saar, a founder and the chief executive of WoodSpoon, which facilitated the interviews with Ms. Achan and other cooks. “If someone is on our platform and they’re selling food they cooked in their own kitchens, that’s against our platform policy. But, to be completely honest, we think that those rules are outdated.”
Ms. Achan said she had become aware from her own research that cooks were not allowed to sell foods cooked in their homes, but said she continued to do so. “The food needs to be prepared in a clean kitchen, and it needs to be done correctly,” she said. “I’ve been cooking for my family for years, and that’s how I prepare meals for my customers.”
WoodSpoon is part of a shift occurring in the food industry. Driven by the pandemic, companies and investors are throwing tens of billions of dollars into bets on what, where and how consumers will eat in the coming years.
In a wager that people will eat less meat, enormous investments are being made in plant-based food start-ups. Fast-food giants are spending tens of millions of dollars adding drive-through lanes to serve an increasingly grab-and-go nation. More than 1,500 ghost kitchens have popped up across the country, and Wendy’s has jumped on the bandwagon with plans to open 700 delivery-only restaurants. Millions of dollars are being pumped into snack bars, chips and drink companies in the belief that consumers want extra nutrients or health benefits from their afternoon grazing. And start-ups like WoodSpoon …….