There’s nothing better than a home-cooked meal to recharge after a long day’s work, but this is a privilege that cannot be afforded by many bachelors and bachelorettes, who simply do not have the time to cook.
This dilemma encapsulated the life of Belal Al-Burno and Mahmoud Maghraby, two friends who lived on their own for a year in Dubai. Come lunchtime every day, they would find themselves spending inordinate amounts of time searching for home-made food alternatives, instead of the usual option of fast food.
After returning to Egypt, both Al-Burno and Maghraby decided to establish their own start-up by connecting a number of home-based cooks who sell homemade food for a living on one platform. The platform aims to make it easier for people to find a safe, healthy and fresh home-made food. Yumamia is a website that connects 350 home-based cooks who cook for a living with users who need a healthier alternative to fast food.
“We mainly aim to make it easier for those who want to order oriental dishes like the ones their moms used to cook, as well as providing those women with a constant income by allowing them to reserve different orders from all around Cairo,” said Zeina Kassas, Yumamia’s marketing and business development specialist.
Through a fixed menu on their website, users are allowed to pick the meals they want, which range between appetizers, salads, main courses and desserts, all listed with their prices. Once the order is requested, it is delivered to the cooks, who live in the same neighbourhood as the user does, in order to make sure that he/she receives the food hot and fresh.
“We have cooks from across Cairo and Giza, and we’re currently working to recruit in Alexandria as well,” according to Kassas.
All the cooks who work at Yumamia are home-based cooks aged between 25 and 55. The platform allows cooks to work from their own homes for a “competitive weekly salaries” according to Kassas. Further, monitoring safety factors is a main concern for the founders, who wish to ensure that the delivered food meets the highest safety standards.
“Before we hire any new cooks, we pay a sudden unannounced site visit to their homes to make sure it’s as clean as we’d want the food we eat to be,” Kassas added. “We also provide them with safety training and hygiene education to make sure they meet international standards.”
The owners also provide all cooks with standardised utensils and recipes to ensure that the meals are served in the same manner and portions, even if they are cooked by different people.
Even though home-based cooks who sell their food is not a new phenomenon and has been culturally prevalent, Yumamia opened a wider door to introduce them to broader range of customers.
“Some of the cooks who work with us have been working at this job for years,” Kassas says. “In the past, the practice was usually undertaken through social circles. Afterwards the process developed into marketing over Facebook. But Yumamia provides the opportunity of having a larger audience for a larger number of cooks. Ultimately, we organised something that already existed for a long time.”
The website also provides the option of ordering frozen microwavable meals.