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In the kitchen with... Hunter & Co. Deli

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How delivering school lunches led to a profitable ready-made meals business


A business pivot in a pandemic

When Charlotte Spong and Ben Jager opened food store and deli Hunter & Co in Elsternwick four years ago, they never imagined delivering ready-made school lunches to the local primary school would be a key pillar of their business. But there’s nothing like a pandemic to prompt a creative pivot or two.


“The principal at my children’s primary school asked if we would be interested in taking on the school lunches,” explains Charlotte. “She was keen to put revenue into school families. I ummed and ahhed, wondering if it would be a lot of work for not much return.” 


The deli’s staples are homely favourites like lasagne “a family favourite but who wants to wash all those pots at home,” says Charlotte and wet dishes like chicken tagine and curry. The cabinets are full of salads (maybe soba noodle with pumpkin, eggplant and miso dressing, or brown rice with roasted greens and almonds), plus sandwiches and quality staples for the pantry and fridge. Adding kid-friendly rolls, wraps, sushi and treats would only work if the back-end was efficient. 

Charlotte tried to customise a sales platform to get the mobile tuckshop rolling but it was just too clunky. “Then a parent at school mentioned Cookaborough and before I knew it an old friend also asked if I knew Cookaborough,” says Charlotte. “I thought, OK, I have to check it out.”

Cookaborough is the all-in-one solution for ready-made meals

After a product demo, Charlotte could instantly see that the Cookaborough’s all-in-one platform would erase some pain points, not just for the school lunch project but also for corporate clients. “Oh, I won’t have to type addresses on labels, I wouldn’t need to do an ingredient list and keep it separate from prices, I’d never have to copy and paste an email address again,” she says. “It was exactly what I needed.”

Cookaborough now powers Hunter and Co’s school lunch deliveries Wednesday to Friday, with a menu cut-off on Tuesday night. “That means I can structure rostering and ordering and do the preparation in bulk,” says Charlotte. She’s offering the school community meals for home too. “I really like the power of Cookaborough,”

“Working in your business, you never work on your business. I am making coffee in the morning and salad in the afternoon. I am not going to build a database at night. Cookaborough is a way of strategically building a customer list and helping bring in those repeat orders as well as making it simpler to fulfill them.” - Charlotte, Hunter & Co Deli.



Building a food community with Cookaborough


The next step is to build a Cookaborough community focused around the deli. QR code posters in-store encourage walk-in customers to sign up for weekly emailed menus. “At the start of the month, I’ll block out half a day to map out four weeks of menus and my communication plan,” says Charlotte. “I will load the ingredients and the recipes, so there’s no way I can kill anyone with nuts. And then it will just roll out. Rather than orders coming in sporadically, it’s one big cook each week. We cook in batches and I’ll make extra to sell in my shop.”


The more Charlotte uses Cookaborough, the easier it gets. “It’s never been hard but the more you load into it, the faster it is to create menus because it’s all pre-loaded,” she says. “Now we just think about amplifying what we do and building awareness. Cookaborough powers us to grow.”


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Dani Valent

Dani Valent

Dani has 20 years’ experience as a food journalist, travel author, and recipe developer. She loves drawing on all her experiences to share stories, recipes, insights and excitement in all their tasty glory.

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