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Wellington’s HospoConnect app delivering fresh produce to chefs

28 Jan 2019

Wellington chefs can now stay up to date with all the latest produce information and place orders in just a few simple finger taps from their phones.

Digital technology expert Ramesh Naran and Cuba Fruit Mart’s Sanjay Dayal who both have a background in fruit and vegetable retail, saw inefficiencies, errors, and frustrations from the multiple handling of orders. Ineffective and at times non-existent communication between chefs and suppliers at critical times was also an area they saw as an opportunity for improvement.

The HospoConnect app solves these problems through its digital platform where chefs and suppliers come together to trade fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat, seafood, cheeses and many other products needed by chefs.  

“The app brings chefs and suppliers together on a single platform where they can efficiently buy and sell, as well as communicate product updates and needs,” says Ramesh.

“It enables suppliers to reach their chefs much more effectively in communicating and promoting important product news such as seasonal changes, prices and availability.

“Chefs have the latest information from all their suppliers at their fingertips, all in one place. Suppliers can post pictures and captions of their available produce, and chefs or restaurant owners can select the quantities they’re after.

“There’s no way for information to be lost – unlike traditional methods in the industry where orders are sent by text message, written on paper, or voicemails at 1am.

“With chefs and restaurants all turning to social media like Instagram, it made sense to bring an innovative way of delivering news and ordering produce to the industry straight to their phone.”

Sanjay and Ramesh have been friends since primary school. They were each other’s ‘best man’ and their fathers immigrated to New Zealand around the same time, almost 70 years ago. Sanjay took over the reins at Cuba Fruit Mart from his father and two uncles in 2002 before the Cuba St landmark closed this year.

With an in-depth awareness of the industry from a supplier’s view, Sanjay and Ramesh worked with chefs across the Wellington region to understand their time pressures and how the app could communicate seasonal produce ahead of time. They lured in the digital design skills of another local, Mike Higham who has been instrumental in regularly enhancing the app.

“The app is designed to be seamless and free up time for our chefs, so they can be creative and innovative with their dishes rather than worry about ordering produce or wondering what’s available. For suppliers, it means they can cut out errors and sell their units accurately,” says Sanjay.

HospoConnect also makes it easier for smaller producers to connect with Wellington’s chefs – which would have otherwise been a struggle. Suppliers can make their news posts inactive instantly when their units sell out, and the app has a function for chefs to chat to the supplier about the product.

Since April, HospoConnect has seen more than 5000 orders placed. More than 200 chefs from 150 restaurants and 15 suppliers across the region and other parts of the country use the app – which is increasingly growing in popularity.

Julie Clarke from Floriditas, Shepherd Elliot from Shepherd, Asher Boote from Hillside Kitchen, and MacLean Fraser from Artisan have been using the app since inception.

For Sanjay and Ramesh, it was without question they’d launch HospoConnect in Wellington before expanding to more of New Zealand.

“Wellington is unique and friendly. We’ve both lived overseas but we always knew we’d end up living in Wellington. The start-up community has been really supportive – launching HospoConnect here in Wellington has been a real privilege,” says Ramesh.

“The collaborative culture you find in Wellington meant we could work closely with the industry to create an app they have a real need for – and help evolve on the updates we make, including being patient when things don’t go right! There’s so much passion across the industry from chefs and restaurant owners to the suppliers.”

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