Jake Zuppa and the Growth of his Business
Words by Imogen Hindson
Jake Zuppa is the brains behind of ‘Produce 4 Chefs’, an initiative bringing crates of fresh produce to the front doors of locals in our region. In collaboration with vendors from Barossa Cheese to Nuriootpa High School, this delivery service provides people with the freshest foods straight to their front door. Produce 4 Chefs is the natural collaboration of all of Jake’s passions – fresh produce, supporting the hospitality industry, and community connection.
What was once built to be a fresh produce delivery service for restaurants and the wider hospitality industry quickly grew into something much bigger throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time period, one of the hardest industries being hit was the food industry – particularly in the Barossa region. As explained by Jake, “[when the pandemic hit], restaurant deliveries dropped by approximately 95%”. It was at this point that Jake knew something had to change.
Branching out into local food deliveries was on his radar for a long time. “It had been a constant conversation for quite a while… [but] the pandemic really exploded it. The business needed to survive.” As Jake explained, he’d been delivering foods to the doors of a few people in the region for a long time. However, with majority of his work drying up he decided to upscale his business on a massive level.
It was during this period of upscaling that Jake saw substantial growth. In the first week, P4C delivered 9 boxes. Within a fortnight, Jake and his family and friends were delivering 81 boxes per week. Deciding to ramp up the home delivery side of the business, and beginning marketing took only 6 days. “When COVID hit, it quickly grew to 80 boxes per week. I didn’t really have the time to work out the logistics”, Jake noted.
It was at this point that a local app developer reached out to Jake. The app was completed within a speedy 6 weeks, and is now the base of the businesses home delivery ordering system. The P4C app allows users to order and process payment seamlessly. Simply buy a once-off crate, leave it at your front door the night before delivery, and the team will replace it with a fresh basket in the morning.
Produce 4 Chefs have an array of vendors, from fresh produce to Apex Bakery, Ember Pizza, Jersey Fresh Milk and Cream, Torzi Matthews Olives, and Varci Boutique Beverages. They chose these businesses because they promote community connection, help create local jobs, and are high standard products.
“Luckily a lot of them are personal friends”, Jake said. “[I’m] very lucky to have those prior relationships… it would’ve been hard if I didn’t have [them] – friendships with chefs, friendships with suppliers has made the whole thing possible.”
One of the most impressive collaborations is the team up with Nuriootpa High School, with P4C delivering their lettuce and produce to the wider community. The tale of how this collaboration came about is an interesting one. With the shutdown of the region’s hospitality scene, “no restaurants were able to use the product [the school was supplying]”. The executive chef of Appellation at the Louise got in touch with Jake, and he got in touch with the high school. Now they’re supplying aquaponic lettuce produced by the students in their produce boxes.
Every base is covered by Produce 4 Chefs, which can be seen through the media of their Monday Business Lunches. A team of chefs in the area get together with a crate of fresh produce, and show people some delicious recipes they can make at home.
“Ironically, the guy I started the Monday Lunches with has been a friend of mine for many years”, Jake mentioned. “It just ended up in us catching up on a Monday on our day off, we’d have a lunch, have a few bottles of wine and have a great lunch discussing ideas. As the business would progress, we’d have leftover produce and more and more people getting on board.”
It’s clear that this Totally Locally approach is at the heart of P4C. Jake credits the success of his business to the people he knows; “I don’t think it would have been possible without prior relationships… the community is really strong here. It’s irreplaceable and you can’t teach it.”
When asked what Jake was most proud of during the expansion of his business, he noted the “shift from primarily restaurant supply, to primary home delivery boxes during the SA restrictions.” This only took a total of six days; something he credits to the support of his family and friends. Without the support of vendors, friends in the hospitality industry, family making early morning deliveries and staying back late, none of this would have been possible in such a short amount of time. Now that restaurants in the region are re-opening, Produce 4 Chefs is looking forward to continuing their home delivered service as an expansion of the business.