A product to connect people to culinary students/chefs/skilled home cooks, to help them plan/cook exciting, fresh & affordable meals.
How might we improve access to a variety of exciting, fresh and tasty meals at an affordable price for people who can’t or are not able to cook for themselves or a small group.
People are bored with their daily meals and don’t enjoy the process of planning and cooking their food.
The target audience here includes busy professionals, families with varying dietary needs, people looking to cater a small gathering and people who would like more variety in their daily meals. In-depth user interviews show that people are eager to have someone they trust suggest, develop and even make personalized meals for them based on their tastes and needs, as long as it is affordable.
The greatest consideration for most people when deciding what to make for the week is how much time they have to cook. Survey results show that people mainly don’t like to decide what to cook and don’t like preparing the ingredients for a meal. Surprisingly (given the number of grocery delivery services), grocery shopping was the least pain point for people in the entire meal planning process.
Right now, the main alternative to making your own food is ordering in (e.g. Uber Eats). People like the variety and that the meals are quick and tasty, but feel that the costs can add up quickly.
Regardless of the cons of ordering in, most people haven’t tried a meal prep service. Of those that have, they feel that the costs are too high for what’s offered, and they have varying issues with the fixed menus - poor variety, fixed set of cuisines they don’t like, flavours they find bland and they have no say in the options provided.
There is a gap here to provide an affordable alternative to having exciting and tasty meals where some/all parts of the preparation is outsourced to make the process easier.
User Pain Points
Using a survey of 26 people and 2 user interviews, we identified a few categories of prospective users based on specific pain points in the meal planning/preparation process.
- Busy professionals who do not have enough time to prepare healthy, tasty meals on a daily/weekly basis
- Parents/families with varying dietary needs
- People who love trying new food and get bored with what they are able to cook themselves, leading to excessive spending on ordering in
- People planning a small gathering who would like to hire and work with a chef to cater their event.
All groups of people felt that deciding on meals to cook that satisfy all their criteria without being boring was the most difficult part of the entire meal preparation process. Criteria included dietary restrictions, bulk meals, time & ease of recipe, cravings etc. Most people were willing to outsource some/all of the process if it was available to them at an affordable price.
- 85% of people generally eat the same set rotation of meals which they are familiar with cooking. However, about 65% of people would prefer more variety in their food.
- 69% of people cook 1-2x a week, while 23% of people cook 2-3x/week
- 89% of people stick to recipes they already know/have made before (despite preferring variety)
- The biggest considerations for what meal(s) to make daily/weekly are: time to cook the meal, ease of preparation and cravings
- Greatest pain points in the meal preparation process are deciding what to cook and preparing the ingredients for the meal
- Grocery shopping is one of the easiest/most enjoyable parts of the meal preparation process
- 89% of people order in as their go to substitute when they don’t want to/can’t cook. The primary concern with this is the cost and concern with lower quality ingredients/unhealthy meals
- ~58% of people have never tried a meal prep or ready meal service. People who have tried it indicate that it can get expensive and they often don’t like the limited options/don’t like that they don’t have a say in what’s available
Landing on the Solution
Based on our target users’ pain points, we knew we wanted to work on the following features:
- Connect users to local chefs at an affordable service rate - focus on culinary students and skilled home cooks
- Creating a platform for discovering new cuisines and building recognition/trust in the chef through Chef and User profiles
- Suggesting meals and meal plans to users based on user preferences
- User can decide what parts of the process they want to take on (e.g. grocery shopping), while outsourcing the rest (e.g. recipe selection, ingredient preparation & cooking)
- Flexibility in building chef profiles and showcasing key features e.g. location, what types of food they’d like to focus on, schedules, home cooking set up etc.
Explanation of Solution
After reviewing the research and pain points, we decided to create a product that will connect users to culinary students/chefs/home cooks (“cooks”) to support/ carry out some/all of the meal planning/preparation at a reasonable cost to the person (“user”) or to cater a small gathering.
The product will allow for users to create a profile, indicating their general location, types of food they like and main reason for using the app (e.g. daily/weekly meal preparation for a single person vs family, catering an event etc)
The product will allow cooks to create profiles to market themselves - show off their personality, experience/background, specialty dishes, cuisines they would like to work on, their home cooking station, any food handling certifications and what services they offer (e.g. meal planning based on needs, grocery shopping, cooking in their own station, cooking in user’s homes, catering for groups).
The product will then connect both groups by allowing the user to browse the chef profiles, or search by the type of food and quantity required.
Users can connect with a chef to request services, including any specific needs and the chef can accept a service request. The product will allow for a rating system based on key metrics to build user credibility.
- How much detail would people want to know about the cook before they feel they can trust their meal preparation process? How do we support chefs in making an optimised profile?
- People want to be able to “collaborate”/have some influence on the meal planning process - how do we facilitate consultations, and organising profiles for each users for the chefs, so they’re able to tailor their suggestions
- Assumption that culinary students may be interested in a side business to practise skills being learnt - similar concept to visiting an aesthetician school to get cheaper service while allowing the students to practise
- Would users be willing to let chefs prepare food in the user’s home? E.g. meal planning and preparation takes place on the app, chef or user buys groceries, chef comes to user’s home to prepare the food. What considerations would be necessary to make this work to ensure the user’s space is conducive? How do we mitigate any issues with this?
- Chefs can create different sets of recipes (e.g quick meals, vegan Indian, low cost) that users can purchase without direct chef consultation
Product Manager Learnings:
I found Co.Lab to be very engaging and challenging. Taking the time to really dive into the problem space helped to uncover core issues (“job to dos”). The course helped to reframe the way I think of problem spaces - as issues that have, and will always exist, regardless of the solution.
I’m looking forward to continuing to access the course materials to support my continued learnings.