How Dani Valent’s Friday Pie Day is delivering 10,000 pies from Melbourne small businesses to footy fans

Dani Valent

Dani Valent. Source: suppled.

A Melbourne food writer and local startup have come together to bring pies back into footy finals season — even if you have to munch them on the couch — and they’re supporting the city’s small businesses in the process.

Dani Valent has paired up with food delivery platform Cookaborough on Friday Pie Day, a campaign delivering pies to the doorsteps of footy fans (and pie fans) every Friday in September, during the AFL finals’ season.

Initially, Valent and the Cokaborough team teamed up on their ‘Cooks and Chefs Series’, during last year’s long Melbourne lockdown, creating a series of events in which chefs shared their tips and tricks for creating recipes from their cookbooks.

It was a way to help people to connect with great cookbooks and great cooks, Valent tells SmartCompany, at a time when those authors couldn’t do their usual promo tours and events.

But it became clear there was an appetite for food-based events in homes, and that the concept could be expanded into other areas.

“Friday Pie Day is one of those,” she says.

“It’s similar in that it’s connecting people through food experiences and a really key cultural moment being the footy finals, but also supporting people who are doing it tough during this period.”

Friday Pie Day supports bakers, restaurants and other pie suppliers — businesses that have lost a lot of wholesale custom, as well as passing trade.

At the same time, it’s a way to make footy finals season special for the fans, who can connect via a shared eating experience and feel a bit of the footy atmosphere.

“When you think footy, you think pies,” Valent says.

“The fact that we’re in lockdown, and the finals aren’t here at all, that is such a blow to Melbourne,” she adds.

“It has resonated even more strongly.”

And resonate it has. Based on previous orders, Cookaborough co-founder Nick Lewis estimates the Friday Pie Day campaign will see more than 10,000 pies sold during September.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by 🍐 DANI VALENT 🍎 (@danivalent)

The ‘a ha’ moment

Founded in 2018, pre-pandemic, Cookaborough was originally a platform allowing hobby chefs to monetise their passion, selling home-cooked meals for delivery.

Rather than a takeaway that’s ordered on demand, Cookaborough meals are ordered ahead of time, meaning the chef knows exactly how many of each option they need to provide. That allows them to operate as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it became clear this was a good option both for restaurants that were forced to close, and for chefs who found themselves out of work.

“It doesn’t replace what food businesses were already doing,” Lewis explains, as they can still be on other platforms, or operate their own takeaway operations.

It simply opens up another arm of the business tailored to different consumers — or the same consumers at a different time in their lockdown life. Before COVID-19, that was helpful. Now, for many, it’s essential.

“It’s been interesting watching the businesses have the ‘a ha’ moment.”

Cookaborough is one of those tech platforms that has grown considerably during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, while the co-founders had been working on perfecting the product-market fit, the pandemic “probably forced our hand”, causing them to ramp up much more quickly, says Lewis.

In February 2019, about $2,000 was spent through the Cookaborough platform, Lewis estimates. Now, it’s facilitating transactions totalling more than $1 million per month, although he says it’s still “really early days”.

“We’ve never valued local as much as we do now.”

Working with Valent on things like Friday Pie Day only gives the startup another boost. Between Valent’s social media posts and other media coverage, Lewis has seen a spike in traffic to the site and the platform has hit its capacity limits for pies on several occasions. 

Of course, it’s good for his business, but it’s also “enormously gratifying” to be able to offer support to both small businesses and people in lockdown, says Lewis.

“You pick the right moment, and you put the spotlight on it, and it catches the hearts and minds of Melbournians,” he says.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by 🍐 DANI VALENT 🍎 (@danivalent)

Valent’s sentiments are similar. She’s built a career around helping people connect with food, and those who create it.

“It’s not just about the dish you see on the plate, it goes back to the farmers and other producers who need an outlet for their produce,” she explains.

The Friday Pie Day store also offers desserts of donuts or a cheese board, and wines and craft beers to go with your Friday dinner, all of which is also sourced in Victoria.

It taps into an increasing desire for consumers to shop local and support Victorian businesses wherever they can, says Valent. 

“We’ve never valued local as much as we do now.”

It’s also a bit of fun, she notes. It’s something they can promote on their socials and get people excited about during what is “a bit of a bleak time”.

“I just love being able to facilitate putting food in front of people that hopefully brightens their day a little bit … and at the same time send a bit of business in the direction of small, struggling businesses that I really admire, and that I also really value as part of the rich fabric of the Victorian food world.”

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