Frasers at Mt Eden went into liquidation this year, 43 years after the owners incorporated the business. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Seeing the local restaurants he grew up wildly with during the pandemic inspired Nick Sinclair to pursue his dream.
The closure of the beloved Mt Eden cafe Fraser’s this year came as a shock to Sinclair
but other restaurants across the country have folded. And while Covid-19 hasn’t stifled business, massive staffing shortages have presented lockdown survivors with ongoing challenges.
Sinclair co-founded a platform called Grossr, which in recent weeks has recruited more new chefs and started to cater to more specialized food needs.
He is happy about a new partnership with Celiac NZ, which provides guidance on meal plans for around one in 10 gluten-intolerant Kiwis.
On his own story, Sinclair avoids jargon and doesn’t cook up much. The 25-year-old from Auckland says he’s had a “random” journey and admits he’s learned a lot he didn’t expect since founding Grossr.
“I’m not going to pretend that I know the ins and outs of being a chef.”
He studied psychology and learned to code after graduating. Sinclair established Grossr with Wyoming Paul after the two worked on parking app Kiwi Parkable together, where he coded and she wrote copy.
“We’re both Parkable kids,” he jokes.
Over the past few years, the duo have built Grossr and worked with hospo professionals as the industry navigates closed borders, public health challenges and the current labor crisis.
He says the easiest way to describe Grossr is to say, “Here’s a shopping list so you can shop wherever you want.”
Customers pay $4.50 per week or $16 per month for a meal plan subscription. In practice, a current plan includes options such as vegetarian winter dinners with four recipes every Monday.
Sinclair says Grossr aims to support chefs, while making mealtime easier for the everyday Kiwi.
“It’s currently a two-person operation. It started many years ago but was completely different from what you see now. It’s been through about 10 iterations…It’s a revenue-sharing model. You don’t not subscribe per se to Grossr You subscribe to a meal plan by the chef.”
Sinclair says its meal plan marketplace pays attention to dietary needs often overlooked in traditional meal kits.
And much like trying to make the perfect jambalaya, building Grossr involved a lot of trial and error.
“We’ve found that people’s shopping habits are a little weirder and more nuanced than we originally thought,” Sinclair says.
Grossr allows chefs or foodies to create a meal plan that users can subscribe to. If users suddenly change tastes or find themselves tolerating foods they once avoided, changes can be made to preferences on Grossr.
Users purchase ingredients from New World, with which Grossr has a partnership. People who live far from a New World, or who simply prefer to shop elsewhere, can take the list and get comparable products or similar brands from another store.
Chefs and meal plan creators can generate monthly revenue in Grossr’s revenue share model.
Sinclair expects the number of recipes to grow as more chefs – veterans and newcomers alike – log on. Grossr now has nearly 400 registered users and recently rolled out a new active subscription plan.
“We launched only a month ago, so we haven’t found our feet yet,” he says.
Grossr won’t be for every cook in the country, but Sinclair says he’s not trying to be.
“Not all chefs will fit into the ecosystem. Any chefs who are interested, we want to get in touch with them.”
Sinclair says he would also like to explore charitable or non-profit options in the future, to see how meal content creators could address poverty, food insecurity or poor nutrition.
Imagining how it might work, he says, “Here’s a meal plan you can subscribe to that will always be high quality…profits will go to any relevant charity.”
The 25-year-old says he’ll be willing to work with experts in this field, even taking their lead, rather than forcing Grossr to do something he’s not yet good at.
So while this aspect of the startup is still just an idea, Grossr was just a few years ago.