It’s Sunday morning. You pull on your dressing gown, stumble downstairs, open the front door and there’s a cooler bag filled with all you need for breakfast. Crisp, flaky croissants, chewy sourdough loaf, artisan jam and even a bag of ground coffee to brew in your cafetiere.
Not a dream but available at the touch of a smart phone button thanks to a partnership between an Israeli tech wizard and an English solicitor.
Five years ago, Omer Eilam set up shop as Milkman, an online service that delivers bread, juice and milk to 1,500 customers across Tel Aviv.
“I wanted to bring back the nostalgic concept of a milkman and an Israeli old service whereby young students brought rolls straight to the door. But I wanted to modernise it with technology to make it more convenient and large scale .”
In the early days it was not so high tech. Eilam would walk from door to door, asking what his customers would like, then delivering bread from local bakeries to their doors.
“In Israel, children take a white roll and carton of chocolate milk to school each day, so the number one order is a white bread roll” explains Jonny Ufland, who has, with Eilam, brought the breakfast delivery service to London, where it is called Loafly.
Eilam developed a web site and apps to take the orders, and now sources the bread from a number of high end bakery chains. It is brought by van to a central location — an outdoor car park — where it is divvied up between the delivery drivers.
“It’s warm and dry there so they can do that” says Ufland. When he worked out logistics for the UK operation, he knew he would need to find a warehouse for his doughy deliveries and that paper bags — as used by Milkman — were inappropriate for our less clement climate.
“Most of the Israeli deliveries are to apartments so the brown paper bag is hung on the front door. That would never work here. So we had branded cooler bags made. Even in nights of torrential rain, the bread inside is fine” says the former Hasmonean student. Ufland studied law at Kings College London and qualified as a solicitor at BLP (Berwin Leighton Paisner) where he worked for 10 years as a commercial property solicitor.
“I decided I didn’t want to be in the City anymore, so I took time out and went to Tel Aviv where I signed up for an ulpan.” He fell in love with Israeli life and when he finished his studies decided to stay on, setting himself up as a UK property legal consultant.
He rented a desk in a co-working area that was heavily populated with high tech entrepreneurs. “If you go to a dinner party in the UK, everyone’s a lawyer or a doctor. In Israel, they are all founders of high tech start-ups” he says. “It’s what everyone is doing.”
“The army culture also gives people improvisation skills to move and change fast in hard conditions —one of the key success factors for a high-tech start up” explains Eilam, who was interested whether we had anything similar in the UK.
“I could remember the traditional milkman model from when I was a child, but I wasn’t sure if people look upon it as a bit old-fashioned or dated.”
Ufland decided to go home to do some research and found that although there are plenty of food delivery apps around there was nothing for breakfast. He suggested that he and Eilam partner up. “I knew the UK market and he could sort the coding. It was probably the buzz over tech start-ups that inspired me. If I’d been in London I would never have done it. I kept expecting to find out why no one has tried this before but so far there is no obvious reason.” Ufland has continued his legal work while setting up Loafly. Eilam deals with the technical side from Israel.
The bread and viennoiserie (breakfast pastries) are baked by The Bread Factory, which also supplies various hotels, restaurant and bakeries. “They have a royal warrant to supply Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, so it’s the same bread the Queen eats.”
A sticking point had been how to get the breakfast goodies from supplier to customer. “The Bread Factory could only delivery to us for 6am but that would be too late for us to get it to our customers. By chance, we secured warehouse space so close to their bakery that they could deliver to us on their airport run in the early hours. It all came together in one day.”
They now deliver brownies, challah and bagels — all supplied by The Bread Factory, which, although not hechshered, is all vegetarian. Ufland is looking for more treats to go on the menu like artisan jam and granola: “I’m looking for premium products so the we can deliver almost a breakfast picnic basket. That’s the dream.”
It’s early days for the fledgling foodie business, but Ufland is confident it can succeed.
“I believe there’s a market out there, and the number of people buying from us is growing weekly. That tells me people want our product. I’d like a Loafly menu in every Airbnb, for people who may not know the area they’re staying in, and to offer it as a service to businesses for breakfast meetings. There are so many avenues to go down.”
He grew up strictly kosher and would still never eat non-kosher meat. His parents remain observant. “They would never make a Loafly order” he says.
“But they are proud of what I’m doing with the business and are excited for me.”