Cooked acquires Chefmade amid Chicago's food delivery market shakeup

James Risley

Chefmade CEO Sarah Arel had a lot of responsibilities at her food delivery startup. Not only did she run the company, but she also handled photography, managed drivers and helped make heat-and-eat meals that were delivered to its customers every weekend.

But that kind of involvement couldn’t quite scale.

“I was just spread too thin to really concentrate on the things that I was really good at and not get bogged down in all of the details,” she said.

As the pressure mounted, Arel started looking for a partnership that would help take some of the load off while helping to continue Chefmade’s mission of delivering high-quality, chef-made meals weekly that customers can heat up when they’re ready.

This week, the company announced they’ve found that partnership and have been acquired by Cooked, a similar Chicago food delivery service that focuses on weekly meal planning. Chefmade options will be rolled into the Cooked menu, and customers will be able to choose from both menus starting with this weekend’s delivery.

“We are two companies with similar values and food philosophy, clean eating, enjoying all good natural foods in moderation, and we decided that both of our customer bases would benefit from this merger acquisition,” said Cooked owner Jona Silva. “This represents the spirit of who we are as a company, build together, share resources, and always be on the look out for good partnerships.”

Arel (pictured above) is joining the Cooked team as director of creative growth, and some chefs and drivers are also a part of the transition. The acquisition included both equity and cash, but exact details were not disclosed.

The acquisition comes at a time when Chicago’s food scene has seen a lot of change. Just last week, Eat Purely unveiled its new plan to deliver food cold, on purpose. Meanwhile, Artizone shut down earlier this year and Sprig pulled out of the city last month as the market for food delivery shakes out. But where on-demand services have faltered, Arel sees a bright future for Cooked.

“Cooked is more of a plan-ahead, weekly service, which makes, logistically, deliveries and cooking and food waste and all of that a lot easier,” she said. “Plus our customers order more because they're placing one order for their week. They can plan ahead, stock their fridge and not have to think about what to order each day for lunch or dinner.”

She also thinks Chicago is a prime spot for food delivery startups to succeed.

“Chicago has an amazing startup scene and everyone here loves to eat good food,” Arel said. “I mean, it's got one of the best food scenes in America, no doubt. People know what good food is, they want good food everyday. But everyone is really busy, so we're just filling that need.”

Images via Cooked, Chefmade.

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