FOOD52 Makes Every Food Enthusiast Feel like Emeril

Food52 allows food enthusiasts of all experience levels to partake in collective cooking content creation.



Food52 is allowing every cooking enthusiast to feel like Emeril. A recipe creation and critique platform with a community of professional and amateur chefs, food journalists and critics, Food52 has been able to effectively leverage its community’s passion for food to create value for its members no matter what their skills and goals are. And with 500,000 members and $9 million in funding, this company is starting to be noticed.


There are a multitude of online recipe websites that allow users to find recipes or even post their own. Food52 takes this a few steps further however, by creating a platform that is truly focused on individual and collective content creation. Members can share, exchange, critique, vet and experiment with each others recipes. They can create recipe books with other members and then publish them to the community for further revision. This sort of iterative, engaging and communal experience keeps drawing members back to food52 because they feel that they are an integral part. As a secondary benefit, the high level of focus on sharing and vetting community recipes makes for an effective method of content quality control.



Another feature of the platform that brings new users in and helps Food52 truly stand out is their HotLine feature. Food52 realized that people are most in need of help while they are cooking. This is where the HotLine comes into play. Users can ask cooking questions and get answers in real time from the platform members. This is a service that no other company has been effective at solving, and a big value add to its members. The answers to these hotline questions are written and vetted by community members who seem to need no financial incentive but are rather motivated by community feeling itself. Of a registered user base of 500,000 members (and 500,000 unique visitors per month), a hardcore of 50,000 pro and home cooks do most of the responding to any of the cooking related issues, challenges or problems, which can be posted via Twitter or the Food52 mobile app. This second feature makes for real-time, real-human, customized solutions for the immediate needs of the community, which is of significant value creation potential, but without needing Food52 to create and manage a permanent staff of ‘experts’ to deal with queries.


In order to capture some of the value Food52 has created, the site has created an online store from which users can purchase a Food52 lifestyle based set of food ingredients, high-end utensils, cooking apparatus, recipe books and other essentials as well as some innovative items. So far apparently 2/3rds of their current revenue comes from the shop, with the remaining 1/3rd coming via online ads.



The key to Food52’s value creation is a strong user base with members of varying skill levels. The beginner food enthusiasts are the users most likely to purchase from the online shop, but the experienced user base is crucial to draw and keep novice cooking enthusiasts on the platform. In terms of growing their overall base, Food52 has taken some steps including partnering with Whole Foods. Wholefoods gets access to the hotline support while food52 gets access to the Wholefoods community. However, keeping a sufficient number of vetted, experienced and responsible users who are available and motivated to answer these hotline and other recipe questions, may be an even more difficult challenge. Given that so far, these users see none of the value they create, the company may find they have to start offering financial incentive to keep these crucial members on the platform.




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Student comments on FOOD52 Makes Every Food Enthusiast Feel like Emeril

  1. Interesting article. You bring up two interesting points when it comes to value capture – online store and ads. I wonder how much revenue they are actually generating in both of these segments. It seems that as long users exist, ad revenue can be sustained. However, how sustainable is an online store when it’s so easy to compare prices on products online? They’d have to offer unique products unavailable on any other platforms. This would require a unique skillset of food52 managers – sourcing unique food related equipment.

    There’s also the challenge of developing two separate skillsets to maintain the food52 platoform. On one end, managers need to be proficient in encouraging new people to sign up for the platform. On the other hand, the organization needs to develop the capability to properly motivate and encourage top chefs from staying on the platform. I’d assume that some of the motivation will be monetary. Also what’s to say that a top chef will not leave the platform and start their own?

  2. I like the idea of users helping each other out with real-time answers. This can be difficult in an environment where you need answers from specialists, but in the cooking community there’s so many different preferences and tastes that lots of different opinions can be valid. I think this lowers the barriers to newcomers becoming actively involved in the creation of content and requires less validation of info.

    Great writeup.

  3. Really cool article! This is definitely an interesting model. I wonder if the ingredient delivery companies like Blue Apron and Plated could utilize something like this for their community. I could see a Threadless-like approach where the top rated recipes are added to the week’s menu and some sort of reward is given to the person who created it. It could be a cool way to source new recipes and get their users involved in more of a community setting. Additionally, I would imagine something like the HotLine could be really valuable to Blue Apron, Plated, etc. and would be even easier to manage given that there are only a few recipes a week that people would need help on.

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