The founder of food delivery start-up Taster has said the firm wants to differentiate itself from dark kitchens, as it aims to roll out two new sites per month for its new pasta brand with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
Taster hopes to take the Jamie Oliver collaboration “very far” and turn it into the “biggest pasta brand in the UK,” founder and CEO Anton Soulier told CityA.M.
Taster was founded in 2017 after Soulier’s three year stint at delivery titan Deliveroo, which began with the entrepreneur being the seventh person hired by the app.
The platform has “digital restaurants” across 80 major European cities in England, Spain and Belgium. It serves takeaway and delivery dishes across a number of brands including Out Fry and Pepe Chicken.
Pasta Dreams will begin with a delivery-first and pop up site in Soho, with customers able to click and collect, plus order on delivery platforms, as well as launching a pop-up Paris today. The Soho site will have limited indoor seating.
The group – which describes itself as a “delivery-first restaurant group” was distinct from a dark kitchen model, which Soulier described as “shared kitchens” versus Taster’s work as “brand builders”.
The company also uses kitchens in restaurants and hotels that are not at max capacity, in addition to franchise partners working in branded spaces.
Pasta Dreams’ customers can watch food being prepared at the Soho site’s open-plan kitchen, as well as having a limited option to eat in.
Dark kitchens have garnered somewhat of a bad reputation over the years due to concerns about employee welfare and noise disturbances in residential areas.
However, Soulier was keen to make clear that Taster was “staying away” from this format, with pop-ups that “create direct relationships with customers” making the brand different to a dark kitchen model.
Taster was becoming “more and more” of an omnichannel operator, he added.
Taster is hoping to expand beyond its traditional city heartlands to “smaller cities”, which by definition have fewer food offerings than in central London, he said.
While delivery firms such as Deliveroo have slashed sales forecasts due to anticipated slowdowns in consumer spending on takeaways, Soulier was confident that food was “one of the last things” consumers would cut.
Although Taster was “monitoring everything” regarding the impact of the cost of living crunch, Soulier said the company was “not too concerned” about a slowdown in sales, having just seen a “record September.”
After a turbulent time for tech start-ups, including Deliveroo, which has seen its share price sink 70 per cent in the past year, Soulier admitted that some companies would “struggle” in the coming months.
However, he said that the firms that managed to resist the tough macroeconomic conditions would “get back even stronger.”
Value for money was “very important” to the latest Pasta Dreams brand, Soulier added.
Celebrity chef and food campaigner said that turning some of his “fave Italian dishes” into delivery-ready dishes had been “an epic journey”.
The partnership had resulted in a “vibrant and delicious” menu, he added.
Taster did not share where its next Pasta Dreams sites would be but CityA.M. understands the company hopes to be rapidly available across the capital.
Last year, Taster received an initial tranche of $37m in venture capital funding from Octopus Ventures, LocalGlobe, Battery Ventures and Heartcore Capital.