Interview with Luisa Galbiati, CEO of SoLunch
Interview with Luisa Galbiati, CEO of So Lunch, an innovative social eating at lunch-time platform.
It’s August. Imagine being at the office, while the whole country stopped due to Summer vacation. It’s 12:50, the “X” hour is approaching, but you have no idea where to eat, because every cafe, diner, and supermarket seems to be closed. You let out a sigh, and settle for a mere energy bar… Is this what the geniuses at SoLunch had in mind when they came up with their innovative, lunch-saving platform? Well, before we get an answer to this question, let’s find out what SoLunch is, exactly.
SoLunch is the first social eating platform that allows you to have a meal in a private household at lunch break. It’s a “shared kitchen” where users – called SoDiners – can eat a meal in a location offered by the SoChef through a reservation.
Two things make this start-up very special: the SoDiners – people who want to comfortably enjoy their lunch at someone’s place – and the SoChefs – cooking-enthusiasts who look forward to cooking for their guests. In the middle we find SoLunch, the platform that makes it possible for SoDiners and SoChefs to meet.
The SoDiner can:
- Choose among the different menus created by the chefs
- Make a reservation
- Eat his/her meal at the house provided by the SoChef
The SoChef can:
- Sign into the platform as a chef
- Publish his/her menu and the price
- Host SoDiners
- Earn money
Now, if you wish to learn some more, enjoy reading the following interview with SoLunch CEO Luisa Galbiati!
Hello Luisa, it’s a pleasure meeting you, and we thank you for your time. Let’s start with the question from earlier: have you ever had an energy bar as your one and only meal option?
Just like any start-up company, this project is derived from a personal experience. At first we had the opposite experience, though, because we became SoChefs: while working from home you feel like socializing, since eating at home alone can get pretty depressing, it feels almost like when you can only eat an energy bar 🙂
How and when did this idea come to you?
A change in our lifestyle made us aware about the fact that millions of people – willingly or not – stay at home during lunch time. Many of these people wish to have richer social relationships, and also an extra revenue source. On the other hand, there are people who are always stressing out about what to eat, and end up having a poor meal, such as an energy bar :). Our in-depth analysis revealed that millions of people in Italy and in Europe are suffering from this. The social cost is very high, since the damage dealt by forced social distancing is almost as bad as that caused by smoking. Thus, we decided to use technology to turn a simple daily activity, such as cooking and eating lunch, into something that could have an important and innovative economic and social impact. In 2015, we presented our idea at the European Social Innovation Competition and got to the semifinals, while competing against thousands of other projects. After that, we’ve been working hard towards spreading this new daily habit.
Can you briefly tell us about SoLunch?
Our platform – web and app version – allows users to offer, book, pay and rate peer-to-peer lunches that are cooked and eaten at a household. A quick meal enjoyed together and a chat can do wonders to improve someone’s day. It’s a new way of doing something very ordinary. Signing in is free, and afterwards SoChefs publish what they offer, when and how many people they can invite over. SoDiners choose where to dine at, make a reservation and pay via the platform. After lunch, both can rate their experience to help other users make their choice. We recently added the “Delivery” option: SoDiners can receive their meal wherever they want. Furthermore, SoLunch is at the center of a food and environment-aware
Community that fights against food waste by providing every member with information and events, courses, action learning and social activities.
How long did it take for you to create the online platform?
The prototype took us almost a year to build. The platform is still not finished, though. It’s going through experimentation and improvements: we listen carefully to our customers’ suggestions in order to improve in the tech department, and also the user’s experience.
The food market is becoming more and more palatable to business owners: how challenging is the competition in this sector?
There are many social eating platforms, but SoLunch is the only one focused on lunch and on preexisting habits: it takes advantage of millions of active household kitchens, so what’s already being cooked is offered to a limited number of guests without needing to prepare special, elaborate meals for many people in advance. We don’t see ourselves as competition to cafes, restaurants, etc. We’re more of an alternative to packed lunch.
How did you launch your project? Did you resort to crowdfunding, by any chance?
Indeed, once our idea was approved, SoLunch came alive thanks to a crowdfunding campaign. It allowed us to fund our prototype, and it was also an important tool to validate our product.
Despite the hard times we all went through, we never gave up. We started using our platform for the purpose of improving social relations and supporting socially fragile people. For sure, the last couple of years forced us and our community to adapt, since what went on drastically changed our perception of socialization, food consumption and workspace use. From our point of view, this is not necessarily negative: we’re working for the sake of adapting to this new reality. Our “homely delivery” experiment originated from an exchange of ideas with our community. We aim at laying a solid foundation in Milan, then we’ll proceed with expanding SoLunch in all of Italy, but also internationally, thanks to the international network we were able to build during our contest days (the European Investment Bank’s Social Innovation Tournament, Boston’s MIT Solve, etc). We truly value local Ambassadors, and we’d like to come into contact with Associations or Partners that are interested in our project, in Italy and abroad.