Providoor changed the game for home-delivered meals. Restaurant meal delivery services have been around since the 1980s, with some of the bigger players entering the fray in the 2000s and 2010s. Services like Deliveroo and Uber Eats rely on “contractors” who zoom or, sometimes, pedal between the restaurant or its dark kitchen and the customer. The meals are collected hot but, tragically often, delivered tepid or even cold.
The Providoor concept changed all that. Introduced during Melbourne’s 2020 COVID lockdown, it delivered partly prepared meals from high-end restaurants with instructions for finishing the cooking at home. In 2021, as New South Wales suffered through a prolonged lockdown of its own, Providoor expanded to Sydney.
The idea was developed by Melbourne chef Shane Delia, who owns Middle-Eastern style establishments Maha, Maha East and Maha Bar. It started as a way to deliver food from his own restaurants without involving a middle-man and was soon expanded to include top Melbourne eateries like Flower Drum, Sunda, Tipo 00, Movida and Supernormal.
Providoor spanned the gap between services like Hello Fresh, where you have to do all the cooking yourself, and UberEats where food is delivered ready to eat. It was not a unique concept. Other restaurants, including Attica and Grossi at Home, were doing the same thing. The idea was you received the carefully-boxed items, with detailed instructions on how to complete the prep and cooking processes. The result was a restaurant-quality meal in the comfort of your own home.
Originally the service only operated within 35km of the Melbourne CBD. It outlived the lockdown. The delivery area soon expanded to include the Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas, Gippsland, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. The service delivered meals chilled by cold freight and you had to order by 4pm the day before. Restaurants were charged a 15 per cent commission and there was a standard delivery charge of $16.50.
The Providoor service in Sydney was launched in July 2021, with many notable restaurants keen to sign up. Delia said he could see a place for Providoor long after the lockdown ended. At first, it seemed he was proved wrong. In April 2023, it was announced that the business was closing, having lost the confidence of its lead investors. But, in October 2023, the brand was revived with new investors and a line-up of celebrity chefs. The model had changed somewhat, with Providoor Frozen operating in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and Providoor Local (presumably with fresh food) available initially in Sydney.