At-home entertaining startup Gathar taps Curtis Stone’s star power for US expansion

Gathar chief executive and co-founder Jodie Mlikota has enlisted Australian chef and food personality Curtis Stone to expand into the US market.

Gathar chief executive and co-founder Jodie Mlikota has enlisted Australian chef and food personality Curtis Stone to expand into the US market. Source: supplied.

Restaurant delivery isn’t the only part of the food and hospitality sector that has capitalised on changing consumer habits since the start of the pandemic. 

Gathar, an Australia-based private chef and catering platform, said it saw a massive 330% increase in demand in 2021.

Off the back of this rapid growth, the startup is now expanding into the US and has enlisted the help of another Australian export — celebrity chef Curtis Stone — to set up operations in LA.

The startup lets consumers develop personalised menus that are then cooked and served by professional chefs, cooks and caterers in their own homes.

Since launching in Cairns and Port Douglas in 2018, Gathar operates in 27 locations across Australia and enlists more than 180 chefs, cooks, caterers and stylists.

After four years of local growth, California represented a natural first port for international expansion, Jodie Mlikota tells SmartCompany.

“We’ve built an incredible team and platform and are in a really good place for this expansion, which has been around two years in the making,” Mlikota says.

Bringing on Stone, with his “incredible brand and reputation” to grow Gathar in the US was also a no-brainer, Mlikota says.

Stone “comes with a world-class team of industry experts around him who really understand the US market and have a wealth of connections and insights we’re able to leverage,” she says.

The pandemic had shattered the traditional relationship between chefs and restaurants — making opportunities to work more independently attractive, Stone said in a press statement.

“The world has changed for chefs,” Stone said.

 He was excited to partner with Gathar to support the California community of chefs and caterers.

“Post-pandemic, we’re seeing more chefs wanting to start their own private chef businesses and I think Gathar is in the perfect position to support this shift within the industry.”

The move follows $1 million in post-seed funding led by angel investment group ACAC Innovation, alongside new investors including Up Bank co-founder, Dominic Pym.

The capital raised will be used to scale the Gathar platform and team in Australia as well as establishing the brand’s presence in the US.

Growth of luxury food experiences 

Gathar’s expansion comes amid two years of growth for the nascent ‘food tech’ space, driven by demand for elevated food experiences that can be enjoyed at home.

The number of Australians using meal delivery services increased by 19% year-on-year in 2021, with 5.5 million Australians over the age of 14 cashing out.

Many restaurants are increasingly making moves to take advantage of the demand created by apps by innovating with tech-driven offerings, both for consumers and in the B2B space.

Restaurateur Shane Delia’s restaurant meal kit service Providoor announced it would expand operations to Queensland after generating more than $74 million in revenue for its restaurant partners in the 18 months since launching.

The startup is already in Sydney and the ACT and said it is looking to raise capital to further expand in 2022.

Restaurant supplier marketplace FoodByUs achieved a $10 million series A raise in November led by Macquarie Capital to grow its procurement marketplace for small and medium venues.

Led by Menulog co-founder Gary Munitz, along with Tim Chandler and Lipschitz, the company said at the time that despite the strains on the restaurant industry during the pandemic it saw its annual sales increase by more than 600% since 2019.

Most recently Make-Out Meals, which lets customers recreate restaurant meals in diners’ own kitchens, indicated it was looking to raise up to $1 million through Birchal equity crowd-funding.

Mlikota says Gathar is ideally positioned to align the changing habits from consumers with new avenues to earn income for those in hospitality.

“People’s dining habits have changed and Gathar is in the perfect position to capitalise on this trend,” she says.

“The past couple of years have increased people’s appetite for dining at home, and we’re also seeing a mass movement of chefs away from restaurant kitchens and into the creator economy.”

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