Written by David Silverberg

You can’t go anywhere in the GTA without being bombarded by ads and word-of-mouth chatter on food-delivery apps such as UberEats, JustEat or Foodora.

Which got Arber Puci thinking: There’s so much fast food in these apps. What if people want home-cooked meals?

Since April 2017, Puci, 33, and his small team have been working day and night to on developing the app LaPiat, which connects Toronto chefs with customers looking to buy prepared meals. The app officially launched in June 2018.

The cooks hail from a variety of backgrounds, and offer an assortment of food items beyond the average restaurant staples. “With LaPiat, you also get healthier choices at a fraction of the price of restaurant items,” says Puci in an interview.

“Going out to eat now is so expensive, and our app also lets you meet the chefs behind the food you’re buying.”

The interface works similar to other food apps: you can browse what’s available and also search by category or keyword. Unlike apps like UberEats, though, delivery isn’t mandatory. To shave off the delivery fee, customers can go to the home chefs and pick up the items.  

LaPiat’s business model is based on taking 10 percent of all transactions.

While only available GTA-wide for now, Puci says LaPiat will likely expand to other cities later this year, and is aiming to accumulate 1600 chefs contributing their appetizers and entrees. Currently the app has 700 participating home chefs and other professionals.

LaPiat is also open to catering companies and food trucks joining the fray, who often don’t have delivery or straight-to-customer options available.

Whenever a home-chef app such as LaPiat launches, in Canada or elsewhere, concerns mount over food safety. Restaurants face consistent inspections and have to abide by rigorous regulations. Puci says the home chefs will also have to be open to being inspected, and customers can also rate chefs and leave reviews, similar to eBay and Amazon.

“We’re so happy Toronto is our launch city,” says Puci. “It’s such a multicultural city with so many diverse chefs offering so much variety, it really is great for food lovers. Toronto residents are also very open-minded to trying new food.”

One of the biggest challenges the LaPiat team is confronting is wanting to always add new features to the app. “We want to improve our product and bring new things to our customers, and they’ll come in time,” Puci says, noting they plan to translate the app into other languages, such as Mandarin.

Puci says they also want to offer a way for customers to request custom meals from chefs they admire and respect.

What Puci finds fulfilling about running this business is “that startup feeling. I used to work in the energy sector where everything moved so slow, from idea to development, but with your own company, each day there is a new challenge and I really enjoy this fast-paced lifestyle.”

Photography by Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real