Founded by Peter Butler and James Terry during the first UK lockdown, Dispatch is a smart home meal delivery service that currently serves the whole of the UK. Since its launch, they have delivered over 75,000 beautifully wrapped boxes from restaurants including Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano and St John. This year alone they have raised an additional £10m to add more restaurant partners and further develop the service.
You describe your platform as “the antithesis of Deliveroo”. What does this mean and why this strident differentiation?
James Terry: Deliveroo is all about speed and convenience, often at the expense of quality. Dishpatch stands for quality. We carefully select our restaurants and our partner chefs, based on the quality and authenticity of their offer. On Dishpatch, no two restaurants or chefs are the same.
How did you come up with the idea of creating your business and how did you launch it?
Peter Butler: We never really planned to launch Dishpatch! At the start of the pandemic in 2020, all restaurants in the UK were forced to close. I have a background in the restaurant industry and many people I knew were looking for new ways to get their food to customers’ homes. We started helping a good chef friend (Farokh Talati, who runs an amazing Parsi supper club) create meal kits, handle all the packaging and logistics, so he can focus on the food. One leader quickly became two, three, four etc. as word spread through the industry. We grew from there and haven’t looked back!
You talk a lot about how your service complements restaurants instead of competing with them. Tell me about the business model and how you support leading restaurants across the country. JT: As we offer nationwide delivery, we deliver to people who would like to visit the restaurants we work with, but cannot easily get there. These may be people living in rural areas (75% of our products are sold outside of London) or, for example, young families who cannot easily leave the house or are looking for something to make mealtimes easier. This is (by definition!) an untapped market for restaurants.
You raised £10m in your last fundraiser. What has this investment allowed you to do? DB: First, the investment allowed us to invest much more in our logistics. We are about to open a new headquarters, which took 12 months to plan and will be ten times the size of our current warehouse. This means we can work with more restaurants, offer more menus and deliver on more days of the week (most of our products are currently delivered on Fridays). Second, we have invested a lot more in marketing. Restaurant Meal Kits are a new category for on-the-go meals, and we’re getting the word out as quickly as possible.
What is Spotlight? Who are some of the chefs involved and how do you find them? JT: Spotlight is a series of limited-edition menus featuring up-and-coming chefs who don’t yet have a permanent restaurant. The restaurant industry is full of extremely talented and creative chefs, but not everyone has a restaurant (yet!). We wanted to give some of these people a platform to serve their food to more people, especially those who don’t live near their supper club or pop-up.
With restaurants reopening and travel resuming, what does this mean for the delivery and meal kit industry? As a result, will you change your offering or business model over the next few months? DB: Dishpatch has always been about increasing access to great chefs and restaurants, especially for people who don’t live near restaurants or can’t easily get out and about. That continues to be our goal and it’s something that hasn’t changed.
What is the biggest challenge you will face in the coming year? DB: Spread the word! Restaurant meal kits are yet another brand new category within home catering. Most people haven’t heard of restaurant meal kits or still haven’t tried one. Our goal is to promote our offer as much as possible and get as many new people to try the product, because we know they will love it!
You work with established names, newcomers and neighborhood treasures, what makes a restaurant a perfect fit for Dishpatch? JT: It’s all about the quality of the food! We love working with restaurants who are obsessed with the quality of the food they create (from perfecting their recipes, to using the best ingredients, to developing amazing cooking techniques). We also look for authenticity in our partners, which means they create delicious dishes that are uniquely their own.
All your packaging is fully compostable or recyclable. Why was this important to you? Where do you get it? DB: Sustainability is one of the most important topics for our generations and all future generations. As a food company, we have an obligation to do everything we can to minimize the impact we have on the environment. There is still a lot of work to do, but we have carefully selected recyclable materials for our packaging wherever possible. We are currently working with packaging experts to do even better.
Who designs the menus and writes the recipes and how often do restaurants change their menu offerings? JT: Each partner changes their menu every two to three months. It allows us to keep things fresh and interesting, but also aligns with the seasons, which is really important for great food. All menus and recipes are sourced from the restaurants, but we help them determine what will travel well and work successfully as a meal kit. It’s real teamwork!
How do you describe what you do to someone at a dinner party? Restaurant dining from chefs such as Ottolenghi, Michel Roux Jr. and Angela Hartnett, delivered nationwide.
What makes the perfect meal at home? And how do you strike the right balance between the amount that the customer needs to prepare at home and the amount ready to use? BP: The perfect meal at home is something you love to eat, but would find it very difficult to cook yourself at home. Whether it’s because we made it using hard-to-find ingredients, or complex recipes and cooking techniques (eg 12-hour braised beef or complex, spicy curries). Everything arrives fully pre-prepared, and all the customer has to do is heat, garnish and enjoy. It’s a bit like a very, very good cooked dish.