New Zealand’s hospitality sector has been pummelled by the pandemic over the past two years with the restaurant industry struggling to get people back to the table.
But co-founders Arthur Crawford and Joe Scott – the brains behind Meez, a new restaurant meal kit and delivery service startup – hope to bring the sparkle back to the scene with another income stream.
“Meez was initially started as a way to help restaurants continue to operate during the pandemic but has since morphed into something much bigger,” Scott says.
“We want to help restaurants connect with new customers from all over the country and help create a viable new revenue stream for them into the future.”
The pair are keen to redefine the food industry and bring fresh ideas to the restaurant sector – while taking people’s ideas about takeaways to a whole new level.
“Meez offers foodies an exciting new at home restaurant experience -- something that’s meaningful, flavourful and a step away from the generic takeaways,” Crawford says.
“It’s also an awesome opportunity to support local hospitality whilst experiencing food from some of the best chefs and restaurants New Zealand has to offer.”
Meez works via a meal kit and delivery service where hungry foodies can choose a meal from a selection of partner restaurants.
The almost finished meal kits are then delivered to their recipients on the same day or overnight, with Scott describing the delivered meals as being “around 90% pre-prepared” so people get to add the finishing touches to the dishes before serving them at home.
“We're currently working with an amazing group of restaurants and chefs,” Scott says.
“They all share the same vision for sustainable and seasonal dining, and we’re really excited about expanding on this group in the coming months – with more top-rated restaurants and some local hidden gems as well.”
Their business has entered the space controlled by some powerful players – food delivery providers such as UberEats and popular meal plan kits suppliers including Hello Fresh and My Food Bag.
“But our goal with Meez isn’t to directly compete with these big corporates.” Crawford says.
“The ‘finish at home’ meal kits arrive chilled and pre-prepared by the restaurants and allows the customer to recreate the restaurant dishes at home to a level that reflects what you would expect to receive in the restaurant.”
Crawford and Scott wanted to get into business together since their college days – but it took until NZ’s first lockdown before the idea behind Meez began to flourish.
“Lockdown – and the pandemic in general – made us look at food and hospitality very differently,” Crawford says.
They saw how food habits were being shaken up and felt there was a gap in the market that needed to be filled for people to enjoy restaurant-worthy food from the comfort of their own homes.
“At that point we began to start talking to restaurants and what the issues were and then worked back from there to figure out how this could work as a business,” Scott says.
“And then we soft launched Meez in October last year with a few Auckland based restaurants and were so encouraged by the response that we officially launched the business at the end of January.”
The seven Auckland restaurants that signed up to Meez have already generated $150,000 in sales since the company's inception. Meez provides delivery to Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga and Wellington and Crawford and Scott plan to take their service across the Cook Strait later this year.
The current restaurants on the platform include award-winning Mt Eden eatery Cazador, St Kevin’s Arcade Lebanese favourite Gemmayze Street, and Esther on the Viaduct harbour.
“Meez gives people the opportunity to entertain for friends, or cook a special dinner for their partner or family, without the stress of having to spend hours in the kitchen,” Crawford says.
The long-term plan is to deliver from Auckland to everywhere in the country while also “incrementally” partnering with restaurants in every major NZ city.
“Our vision is to make Meez a national platform and give restaurants a voice and a place where they can connect with customers from all across the country, rather than those just in their immediate vicinity.” Scott says.
They both say dining at home doesn’t need to be a stressful or labour-intensive process – nor does it need to be generic takeaways either.
Although they’re confident the industry will continue to bounce back strongly post-pandemic, they both believe it’s important for restaurants to diversify their income streams given the many negative market externalities they face.
“Even before the pandemic, many restaurants have had it quite hard,” Crawford says.
“They continue to battle with high overheads and produce prices and cautious consumer attitudes contributing to less people coming through the doors.”
The pair have self-funded Meez so far but are looking for outside investment in the near future as the startup grows.
“We want to make sure we're working with the right investors that will not only help us grow as a company but also share the same vision and morals,” Crawford says.