Alexander Herrmann/StarchefBox

"That was a major challenge"

Alexander Herrmann, two-star chef
imago images / Future Image
Alexander Herrmann, two-star chef

The StarchefBox by two-star chef Alexander Herrmann offers exclusively created and freshly prepared dinner boxes for two to four people each. Included are various menus that are freshly prepared under EU-certified standards and sent directly home by express delivery. It can be finalized with just a few simple steps. Herrmann gives a first insight into his start-up on FOOD SERVICE.

How satisfied are you with the demand for StarchefBoxes?
Alexander Herrmann: I am definitely very satisfied. We've been planning for four months for this. The company was founded at the end of June and we shipped the first box at the end of October. That sounds like a long time now, but it was really a tour de force: Not just the homepage, of course, but the whole ordering process. At the same time we were looking for and found a production kitchen on EU standard. That also takes time. That was a mammoth task and I take my hat off to my business partner Bernd Förtsch.

What is the situation regarding packaging?
The development of the perfect packaging is still a working process and will be further optimised. Now the hygienic conditions and requirements are much higher for me and I don't want to make any mistakes at all. In the first three months of next year we want to develop a new box with partners, a clever solution with little waste, natural products. At the same time, the packaging options must meet the highest hygiene standards. At the same time, compliance with the cold chain must also work. That can be developed, but it takes longer than I thought. That means I am definitely satisfied with the demand.

Are there any further plans?
Many people think that the StarchefBox is just an offer for Christmas and New Year's Eve. But it is a company that should stay, even after Corona. It is a business in its own right.

What is your advice to restaurateurs regarding food boxes, which should be avoided at all costs?
Boxes that are shipped are of course in a completely different legal situation with regard to hygiene. The EU has really set a very high hurdle here. It is advisable to be very well informed and to work in an EU-approved production kitchen, and to take reserve samples. Allergen information, kilocalories, etc. must be shown on each individual product. A food box for shipping is a big matter in itself, which is why we founded the company StarchefBox.

What other experiences have they had?
A tremendous number. For example, we have learned how PayPal settles accounts. When you start a business on the payment platform, PayPal only pays out the money after 90 days. Because of course they have security mechanisms. If something goes wrong, they pay back the money directly to the customer. So they first look at every new start-up to see if it is serious or if it rips people off. That sounds nice at first, but it is something you have to learn. Three months to get your first money! That is a challenge.
Another challenge is to pack something. If the glasses in the box are not screwed down properly or not packed properly, they will open or break. These may only be a few, but the annoyance and frustration remains. 

What tips do you have for shipping?

For a fresh produce express you need a very clear booking structure. You have to find a parcel company with whom you can work perfectly together. They must be able to plan very well with their resources and intermediate storage facilities. If they are full, they can't pick up any more boxes from you.

Clever ideas: Gourmet vending machine by Alexander Herrmann

We are currently testing what people like. People keep asking for a veggie box, but the actual buying impulse is very low. However, I believe that this is a growing market and we will continue to include vegetarian alternatives. We are just learning which boxes are particularly popular and which are less popular. For me the motto of the boxes is: "Soulfood for gourmets, your home becomes a star restaurant". Because first and foremost it's not the highly creative cuisine that our guests demand, but great products that are cooked properly and hand-crafted to the point - more for the heart and soul.