ExtraPlate is kind of like an Uber for drive-throughs, converting random homes into restaurants selling to-go meals.
The locally-grown app held its official launch party last week, celebrating its arrival across California as well as Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee and Wyoming. The goal? Take ExtraPlate national, and make it as ubiquitous as, well, Uber.
Here’s how it works: You download the app and see who is selling what in the area. You can search for a specific seller—say, your favorite food truck—or a dish you’re craving, like a chicken parmesan sandwich. You place your order through the app, drive to your destination and pick up your meal curbside. No need to exchange cash—it’s all done through the app. Some folks offer delivery, too.
Essentially, it’s an on-demand marketplace for all things food, whether it’s freshly baked cookies or strawberries from someone’s garden.
But how do you know if what you’re buying is any good? Co-founder Patrick Holland said trust gets built via a two-way reviewing system. ExtraPlate can remove sellers—or buyers—with problematic reviews.
“If the food isn’t good, they’re not gonna have customers. They’ll just fall off the map,” Holland said. (Full disclosure: co-founder Grant Rosenquist used to work for SN&R, and ExtraPlate rents its office space from SN&R. In addition, this reporter hosts pop-up dinners, and applied to be a seller on the app.)
Still, sellers only have to go through a two-hour training, which doesn’t include anything about actual cooking. ExtraPlate assumes that folks who apply already know what they’re doing. ExtraPlate’s motto? “We’re not a food company, we’re a tech company,” Holland said.
That speaks to ExtraPlate’s stance on the legality of the whole enterprise as well. As an app, ExtraPlate connects people to each other. That doesn’t mean sellers are certified in any way, nor operating out of commercial kitchens, as they would have to in California to legally serve most hot meals. California’s Cottage Food law allows 30 types of food to be prepared in someone’s home and sold, including most pastries, granola, candy, potato chips and waffles.
“We don’t pretend to know every law in every state,” Holland said. “We can’t be supervising that at all times.”
Essentially, Holland said, it’s up to the seller to research the law and abide. And the buyer just has to trust.
“We can’t be the regulator. … We leave that to the agencies with that authority,” Holland said.
One young culinary student dishing out food at ExtraPlate’s launch party talked about big dreams of opening a food truck one day, and how ExtraPlate was a great way to test out recipes and gain a following. But, he also admitted he doesn’t operate out of a commercial kitchen. In other words, he’s knowingly rolling the dice. So, isn’t it feasible for a government agency to open up the app and round up all the home cooks illegally serving food?
“We know there’s an open door to that. We also know this is something that’s coming,” Holland said. “It’s just a matter of who is going to build the best platform.”
Editor’s note An earlier version of this blog post did not disclose that the reporter also hosts pop-up dinners and applied to be an ExtraPlate seller. It’s been updated to reflect that information.