CocuSocial was founded on a simple premise: traditional cooking classes, while fun, are usually way too expensive and intensive.
This means that many potential customers may be scared away by thinking they can’t afford a cooking class or it’s going to be geared towards participants with a higher skill set. And this is partially true – classes at places like Sur la Table can be close to $100 per person.
On the other hand, CocuSocial charges $55 per class, regardless of if you’re making sushi, handmade pasta or cupcakes.
The startup, part of Y Combinator’s Summer ’17 batch, is able to offer such inexpensive classes because they have no overhead – they just match qualified chefs willing to teach classes with customers wanting to learn how to cook, and a venue willing to host them.
These venues are typically restaurants or hotels that are empty in the early evening or during the day, and benefit from the influx of students, since they also usually order a drink or appetizer while they’re there. CocuSocial guarantees the venues a minimum amount of revenue from these attendees, and will reimburse them if for some reason it’s a slow night and the minimum isn’t met. But normally attendees will order enough to meet the minimums, meaning the venue usage is free for the startup.
It’s also a great way for these venues to generate foot traffic and awareness – sometimes a chef from the venue will even teach a class related to what that restaurant is known for, so a great Italian restaurant will host a pasta cooking class with the hopes that attendees return for dinner one night.
For the chefs that don’t come from the venue, the startup has a strong vetting process when deciding who to put on the platform, including in person interviews and a sample class. These chefs get paid a set fee regardless of how many people are in their class, plus reimbursements for food. So once a class has signups above that break-even point, it’s all extra profit for the startup.
There’s also a strong review system with all feedback shared with chefs, which Billy Guan and Helen Sun, cofounders of Cocu Social, said has made it easy to let chefs know when they need to make adjustments in their class to improve the student experience.
Launched about a year ago, the startup is live in New York City and currently hosts about 35 classes a month, with plans to expand throughout the U.S.