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Countless mistakes are made every day in kitchens across America.
That is due in large part to the fact that supplier relationships have somehow remained in the archaic age of mountains of everyday paperwork and fax machines – out of step with our increasingly digitized (and, arguably, simplified) work relationships. Duplicate, tedious paperwork that gets filled out every night before closing so as to ensure that local chefs get the freshest produce they need for the next day’s menu. This cumbersome process leads to errors: duplicate orders, missing pages, and endless confusions! If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen, this story will ring very close to home.
Choco, a new app designed for food & beverage industry professionals, aims to change that. How? By streamlining the ordering and delivery process for restaurants and suppliers alike.
It began in Berlin three years ago, with a mission to build a more sustainable food system: Choco was established with the overarching idea to digitize the food industry.
Realizing that there was a clear need in the market for simplified processes, Choco’s three founding members (namely Julian Hammer, Daniel Khachab, and Rogério Da Silva Yokomizo) worked together to bring a digital tool that caters to these same needs of the restaurant industry, bringing the best of the digital age.
What, Exactly, is Choco?
Choco is a game-changing app intended for anyone who either is, or utilises, suppliers in the food & beverage industry; from chefs, ordering managers, suppliers, sales representatives, to owners, bar managers, and local producers. Set to alter the way the food & beverage industry interacts with their suppliers, Choco allows restaurants and suppliers alike to save money and time, while making their business more resilient and streamlined in the process.
In other words, Choco caters to just about anyone in the industry who is looking to optimizing the way they order; minimizing mistakes and miscommunication among their clients or suppliers, and, importantly, reducing food waste.
By connecting suppliers and purchasers through a streamlined communication and ordering process, which mimics the style of many chat services we use everyday (think: iMessage, messenger, WhatsApp, etc.), it brings the chef/professional in direct contact with their producers. This means it becomes easier to develop a local supplier chain: in turn, building local relationships, economic resiliency in the community, and direct connection to local, seasonal products and their suppliers. It puts the power in the hands of local business owners, by eschewing larger, national supplier chains. This is a total game-changer in taking tangible steps to eating local, seasonal, real food.
As of today, there are about 15,000+ suppliers and 7,000+ restaurants using the app in various markets all over Europe and the United States — directly translating to over 20,000 orders being fulfilled every month through Choco! The big news? They’ve just landed in Austin!
Choco: The Inspiration
Choco’s namesake is derived from a small island in South America, which has one of the most biodiverse and rich ecosystems in the world. One of the founders visited Choco island and was inspired to create the namesake app. Instantaneously, he realized that there was an immense need to strive for our environments to become like Chocó again — starting with their mission to transition the world to sustainable food systems.
In the United States alone, about 40% of all food produced goes uneaten and eventually becomes waste; making up 133 billion pounds in landfills and totaling $161 billion of food waste per year! For this very reason, Choco is committed to addressing this issue by making the ordering process between restaurants and suppliers more streamlined, the broader food supply chain more efficient, and the food industry more sustainable through their app.
Chelsea van Hooven, Global Industry Advisor at Choco, says:
It’s a big system where we have to activate all different types of stakeholders and create a more transparent food system among all players. Our aim is to really create this transparent food system where food is being moved transparently from Player A to Player B.
In general, we want to get everyone on the app. We want all stakeholders to communicate with each other and to be part of the system that we create, so we can optimize it for everyone’s needs.”
Giving Back in the Time of COVID
With their current numbers and the infamous COVID-19, Choco chooses to stay as focused as can be on their existing user base, working hand-in-hand with their current clientele by developing the app to supplement the needs of the industry all the better, specifically by adjusting, innovating, and iterating the services they provide to their users through the app.
In partial support of suppliers amid quarantine restrictions last year, and as a response to all of the food waste brought about by the closing of the restaurants, Choco launched a sub-project called Choco Market. It is through this initiative that they were able to set up these temporary online marketplaces for B2B suppliers to sell their products to B2C customers while the restaurants remained closed during the lockdown.
How Does It Work & Where Do I Sign Up?
Choco is a very simple ordering tool that streamlines and connects the kitchen of the restaurant directly with their supplier, producer, or farmer to order their supplies.
For restaurants, signing up on Choco means scrapping endless order sheets and late-night waits on the phone. Choco seems (and proves) to be the most efficient way to order supplies. Whereas for suppliers, signing up on Choco means saving time on manual tasks, reducing order mishaps, and potentially selling more products. Regardless of which side you’re on, Choco will definitely change the way that you do business.
The best part about Choco? If you’re a supplier, you don’t ultimately have to be using the app — you just have to accept incoming orders in the medium and format you highly prefer like SMS, e-mail, Word document, or Excel file. This makes it so easy to reach new customers, without changing your preferred method of communication!
Choco always helps businesses set up their accounts on the app. During the onboarding process, restaurants are asked about what supplies they usually need and where they order these supplies from… and the rest is just mere clicks away until the order is fulfilled.
Signing up on the app is easy to do:the interface is very simple and intuitive. So,even if you’re not technologically-inclined, it’ll be straightforward and won’t cause you a headache. Once you’re all set, Choco’s account management team is ever ready to help and assist you with your concerns however they can:
We have a very dedicated account manager for each restaurant who will always check in on our users. We also have a helpline, sales reps that go by the restaurant to help in onboarding, showing them within the app, and generally demonstrating how it works.”
Choco in Austin
Choco launched in Austin late last year — and in the past weeks, Choco has explored and supported the flourishing local landscape of delicious restaurants, pubs, and food trucks available in the city.
As a matter of fact, some of our great chefs in the city are now streamlining their supplies on the app, such as Contigo and Southern, and a lot more are soon expected to jump on the bandwagon.
As part of Choco’s commitment to sustainability and interest in helping build local supplier relationships, they ran a great anti-food waste pop-up called Waste is Gold) in Austin last January. There were 5 restaurants: Il Brutto, Otoko x Watertrade, Foreign & Domestic, Casa de Luz, and Hillside Farmacy, that participated in the pop-up initiative. They created a new dish on their menu from food waste created from their kitchen — in line with the pop-up’s focal point of highlighting food waste ingredients and the overall importance of sustainability in the hospitality industry.
We really saw people [in Austin] were super interested and really open to the idea. There’s a big alignment in local production and in understanding what the food industry has to strive for, which is wonderful.”
As Choco seeks to digitize the restaurant industry, it’s clear that the platform has a lot to offer not only restaurants and suppliers, but looks to change the way we interact with our food on a local level, building awareness around wastage, sustainability, and communication.