Q&A: Simon Prockter, founder of Housebites

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Marketing Week (MW): How has the staying-in trend been part of Housebites’ growth?

Simon Prockter (SP): There is a bigger trend than the staying in that we tap into – the ’collaborative consumption’ [renting or borrowing] trend. For example, Air BnB helps people rent other people’s bedrooms instead of booking a hotel room. There are other initiatives such as Zopa, where you can borrow money from other individuals, and WhipCar, where you can rent someone else’s car. There haven’t been that many innovations around food but it is rising now.

MW: How have you grown awareness of Housebites?

SP: We have only been running for a few months. We have created buzz on Twitter and have new ideas for using Facebook.

But one of the biggest things we do is deliver fliers to people’s homes. According to Mintel, 60% of people order home delivery through fliers they get through their doors, so that’s why we do that. Also, we try to get influential people to spread the message for us. We have been in touch with people like Danny Wallace, Chris Evans and Emma Bunton.

MW: As well as marketing to consumers, how do you entice more chefs to come on board?

SP: We have to balance supply and demand and we don’t want to over-supply chefs. When we first started recruiting chefs we had a phenomenal response to a simple £20 Gumtree ad. There are over 300,000 chefs in the UK and it can be a low-paid profession. We created a model that if they are enough of an entrepreneur and follow our values and service guidelines, they can turn over four times as much as a chef’s average salary.

MW: What kind of competition are you noticing?

SP: I think we will see more people try to rival what we do. The Dutch press has picked up on us and similar sites have now popped up there. I know there is an operation in the UK that is building something similar. This model combines online and offline and the execution is so crucial, especially if you are positioning it as a takeaway.

Other companies position it as a personal chef to your door, and that makes people feel like it’s a treat. However, we want to provide a normal takeaway service. We have a good team here that have a strong background in communities and making things go viral.

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MW: Do you think there is scope for big brands to emulate what you do?

SP: I think those brands have too much to worry about and tend to focus on what they are good at. But there are big brands that have taken on the collaborative consumption concept; for example, I heard the car rental firm Avis has launched a rental scheme similar to Streetcar.

I think big brands are more likely to invest in a business like us or buy one rather than extend into what we do. Firms like us will have already done all the intelligence and built all the templates.

MW: What kind of expansion are you planning?

SP: We are expanding to another UK city in January and more from February. Early adoption is the important thing, which is why we launched in London.

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