Love me tight, box me right!
Dining out is not only about feeding oneself. It is not even about taste alone. It is about being pampered, the satisfaction we get from immaculate service, and the excitement we get from the creativity in the dishes and its playful plating. Sometimes it is also about the fulfillment of sharing a purpose, such as supporting a small producer through the use of local ingredients, the thought that goes into the food procurement, caring for the environment with good agricultural practices, no-waste kitchens and recycling. Sometimes it is just about changing the ambiance, only going out after a day of hard work will suffice.
But what about if one is obliged to work from home with extended hours of work shifts that leave no time to cook and one ends up ordering takeaways instead? How can we bring joy to home delivery? And what about all the boxing with plastic containers, plastic cups and wrappings? Surely this is not the most satisfying way to go, but sometimes we are drawn into such a situation. My daughter and I have been experiencing such a case firsthand. She, as a lawyer working from home for crushing hours often not finding the time to brew a decent cup of coffee, and I, who is practically useless in our new flat with a crappy kitchen, overloaded with book and article deadlines, and being the tailor who cannot sew, find ourselves in a situation of a shoemaker’s son that goes barefoot. Since the start of the pandemic, we have been ordering food to which I must admit brings a lot of mixed emotions.
One fact was a bit annoying. There was almost a monopoly of online ordering systems where if one did not have direct access to a certain restaurant or outlet, yemeksepeti.com was the only choice. I can say that all the income I got from my articles went swiftly to that system. Learning that they charge hefty commissions was heartbreaking, thinking about the poor small outlets that have to combat fierce competition. They often have no other choice but to surrender to the system. Still, at least they had the business going. We noticed that the prices inevitably kept going up, apparently to cover the commission expenses.
But then there were dear chef friends that were more in the fine-dining side of the culinary world, full of creative ideas that had the drive to bring the dining scene of this country to another level. Their food was not fit for takeaways, but they needed to find a way out. A few attempted sending kits to their loyal customers, only to keep their staff in place. One pioneer was chef Maksut Aşkar at Neolokal restaurant, whose DIY dining kits were creative and exciting but were more on the playful side, and not exactly meant for the time-deprived white-collar professionals who were their core clientele apart from the now non-existent high-end tourists.
Aşkar and wine expert Levon Bağış had previously opened a new wine bar, Foxy, also offering small bites to go along with the wines just before the pandemic. In a daring move, they opened a new branch in the posh Nişantaşı neighborhood during the pandemic. But now, with all the restaurants and bars closed down, they are left desperate about the future. According to the restrictions concerning alcoholic drink sales, they cannot do wine delivery, and their small bites are meant to accompany the wine, so it makes no sense to do just the food part. Many others in the sector are more or less in the same situation. Among the desperate crowd, one restaurateur took a step further and initiated a new food delivery app, named fuudy. co.
Being in the sector as the owner of the famous restaurant Lucca and Cantinery, Cem Mirap, felt the need for such a niche delivery system and started working on it by his own L’Express by Lucca, sort of a ghost kitchen of Lucca that started in mid-September. He said that he was already working on this before the pandemic, so in a way, he was conceptually prepared for these hard times, and during the pandemic, they developed their infrastructure for food deliveries and had already started testing the system by August. This initiative led the way to Fuudy, a new platform that will enable high-end places and chef’s restaurants to switch to delivery. Mirap collaborated with his friend, e-commerce expert İlker Baydar, to start up the system. I talked with one of the chefs at Alaf restaurant, Murat Deniz Temel, to learn about his initial experiences with the system. He seemed to be very pleased with the orders of the first night of shut down, saying that the delivery guys were charming and very helpful, the service impeccable and problem-solving, and above all, the commission they paid including the value-added tax (VAT) and delivery was almost negligible, totally in benefit for small businesses like his place. At Alaf, they try to box their food in totally recyclable packaging with wooden cutlery while ensuring to bring the joy of restaurant dining to home delivery.
Mirap said they aim at including not only premium class dining but also delivering premium products from top outlets like Eataly or directly from producers. It must be an act of fate, but just as Fuudy was taking off, the total shut down of restaurants was announced. That is what I call being a true visionary, so congrats to Mirap and Baydar, and thanks to them that many chef friends who we love and who are vital for bringing our food world forward will survive.