The food subscription business is a well-fed market, ask anyone on either coast and much of middle America and they'll say they've at least heard of meal services that deliver the exactly amount of ingredients you need for meals every single week at your door. For many young professionals and busy, over-worked families that are simply stretched too thin to find time to cook a meal and sit together to enjoy it, companies like Blue Apron and Plated have made it simple, seamless and easy. But previous food writer, Debbie Soo, realized what another hole in the meal market: dinner parties.
Though arguably, the appeal of her start-up, Feastive is likely more for New Yorkers who have a bit more time to experiment in the kitchen, the idea is simple: plan your dinner menu online, have the ingredients delivered (based on your party size) and whip it up, all while sippin' on champagne and greeting your guest as they arrive.
With an emphasis on more exotic, international flavors (likely inspired by Soo's upbringing in Asia), Feastive might be the excuse your squad needs to finally put Doodle to good use and find a time when you can all nom.
Here, Soo shares her story, her success and what's next:
1. Have you always loved food? How has it been a part of your life?
Debbie Soo: “I have always been a food lover. My mother is an amazing cook and instilled in us a lifelong appreciation for food (along with very, very healthy appetites). I moved to New York two years ago from Hong Kong, where I worked as a food editor for a local gourmet magazine.
It was an amazing experience, and I spent the better part of four years sampling the culinary highlights of the region. After relocating to the U.S. and setting my sights on the food scene in New York, I found myself missing Asia – not just the food, but the family-style dining and ease of sharing that is so prevalent over there. It made me think about how I could bring people together more often, with food as the vehicle."
2. How did the idea for Feastive come about?
DS: “The idea for Feastive actually came about during the polar vortex of 2014. We were trapped at home during a crazy snowstorm, and I got hit with an intense craving for sukiyaki. I sat there all day thinking about melt-in-your-mouth tender beef, the sweet-savory broth and just how fun and comforting the entire experience is. I would have paid anything for somebody to bring it to me, but no service like that existed!"
3. What inspired you to start the company?
DS: “While I had been in food writing for a good number of years, I was looking for the right opportunity to expand my knowledge and skillset in the industry. I realized that while there were plenty of meal kits in the delivery space that catered to solving the weeknight dinner conundrum, there was nothing that solely focused on special occasions and fun get-togethers.
For me, cooking during the week isn't a problem as I usually just throw together the contents of my fridge and dig in – there's no one there to judge me if my meal isn't 'gourmet.' It's when I add guests into the mix that things get stressful! In the past when I had a traditional 9 to 5, I'd torment myself over what to cook, where to buy ingredients, and especially when to prep everything.
Feastive is a delicious and fun solution for busy New Yorkers who want to entertain more often. By taking the planning, shopping and prep out of the equation, we make it possible (and enjoyable) to host guests for dinner. All of our menus are created based on principles of interaction, togetherness and experience – we emphasize exotic fare because we want to make dinner parties about shared discovery."
4. What's next for Feastive? How's business now?
DS: We are slowly but steadily getting onto people's radar, and now the challenge is convincing people who have heard about Feastive to try it. People often think a dinner party involves a very large number of people, but our meals are made for a minimum group size of four, which could be as easy to coordinate as a double date.
We have also been steadily unveiling new additions to our menu, including a super-fun DIY Dumpling Kit and our exclusive Raclette Party in a box. In the next few months, we hope to roll out a series of menu experiences that will be perfect for warmer weather and getting people outside.
We are also exploring fun partnerships with other start-ups in order to offer more of a well-rounded experience for our customers (think drinks and dessert)."
5. What is your goal from Feastive?
“I hope that we become the go-to service for fun and creative gatherings in New York City. What we are offering might be a niche product, but we want to own this niche – not just in New York, but in other cities as well where busy people are hungry for new experiences."
6. We have to know: what's your favorite thing to cook for a dinner party?
DS: “The Dumpling Kit has made me obsessed with dumplings lately. I can't seem to make enough of them! I cook a lot of Chinese food when I have friends over too, mostly because a lot of them miss it just as much as I do. There's just something so comforting about a home-cooked Chinese meal. Also, (besides Feastive!) anything Ottolenghi is usually a home run on the dinner party front."
7. What have you learned by becoming a female entrepreneur?
DS: “I have never learned so much so fast. I have learned to appreciate and respect just how backbreaking working in a kitchen is. I have learned that there is an amazing network of fellow female entrepreneurs who just want to help you succeed. And ultimately, I've learned first-hand how difficult it is to start a business, but how rewarding it can be."
WRITTEN BYLindsay Tigar