Timeline of the Dinner Ladies, by Sophie and Katherine

Timeline of the Dinner Ladies, by Sophie and Katherine

 September 2003 

Our kids started at Bronte Public School. We met at the school gates and become friends. Dinners, kids' sleepovers and camping trips ensued!

October 2007
We decided to go into business together, delivering ready-cooked dinners – as we’re both interested in food and keen eaters!  At first we thought we’d call it @Home (okay – a bit cringe!) but then we came up with the Dinner Ladies – and we both loved it.
Perry (Katherine’s artist husband) drew up a logo idea on the back of an envelope. We opened a bank account, did a crash course in MYOB accounting and an Eastern Suburbs Community College course in book-keeping.

November 2007
Dinner Ladies officially started – in the garage! In our first week we cooked 10 portions of two different dinners and sent them to 10 friends for free. We said, if they enjoyed their dinner, to order officially the following week. What a cunning way to guilt-trip them into buying!
In the beginning, we cooked just two dishes every week. Customers emailed their orders and we wrote them in a book, tallying the columns to work out the amount to cook.
Our first Dinner Ladies kitchen was a flat surface on top of a Westwood travel trailer! Dave McGuinness from Bourke St Bakery donated a large fridge, and we bought a couple of big pots and ‘Rambo’ gas burners online. 
We cooked on Tuesdays. On Wednesday evenings Katherine would feed and bath all seven children while Sophie drove around delivering. Katherine processed the takings (cash and cheques) on Thursday evenings at Easts rugby club during kids’ sports training! In our first proper week, we turned over $400.

December 2007
Our very first official employee, Shen Wei, started as chief washer-upper! (Shen Wei has been with us all along and is now our vital Operations Manager.)

March 2008
We employed Bronte Public School teacher Miss Trevor to do a delivery run in her car after school. (Doing a quick local delivery run in exchange for dinner became a popular sideline for our children’s teachers!)

June 2008
We bought our first professional piece of equipment: a Hallde veg prep machine. What a time-saver that was!

November 2008
We moved to the kitchen of Bondi Bowling Club. Now we were cooking on Mondays and Tuesdays, and packing and delivering on Wednesdays. We had more space, but conditions still weren’t ideal… the gas burners were small and the refrigeration unreliable. We lost all our stock one week when a fridge failed – a massive setback because we were only making enough to cover our expenses.

March 2009
We hosted a fund-raising dinner for Gemma Sisia, who founded the School of St Jude in Tanzania. It was a great success and raised the roof at the Bowlo! We’re still involved with the school, sponsoring a school bus and now student Jema.

August 2009
We took on a lease at Tender Tom’s butcher shop in Matraville. Sophie’s parents gave us a loan to renovate it, make good on the cool room and purchase an ice machine, dishwasher, a large stainless steel sink for blast chilling, and our first two enormous bratt pans for cooking huge quantities of food. The Dinner Ladies was starting to transform into a professional operation…

February 2010
We bought our very first delivery van from a second-hand car dealer – and liveried it with our logo, of course!

October 2010
The launch of our very first website! Now we look back, it was hilariously clunky, but it meant we no longer had to take email orders, transcribe them into MYOB invoices and process cash and cheque payments – what a huge relief!

July 2012
With all our children at school, we were able to cook full-time instead of just on Mondays and Tuesdays. 

January 2013
We settled on the purchase of Unit 16, 32 Perry Street, Matraville – our first proper commercial kitchen!  It was derelict when we bought it, but we could see it had good bones! Perry spent three months working as the foreman and chief builder, getting it ready for us to move in.

March 2014
We started to use a food management software program, which dramatically improved the way we developed and calculated recipes and costings. What a huge game-changer!

February 2015
We employed the one-and-only Joshua Guild, our Head Chef. Dinner Ladies was starting to become a proper business!

March 2015
We appeared on TV on Shark Tank! And were offered investment by Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice.  Despite being thrilled to get to know her, we decided to forge on on our own…

November 2015
We introduced an accounting and payroll system. Another time-saving game-changer!

December 2015
We launched our first proper Dinner Ladies Christmas menu!

August 2016
Our cookbook was published.

October 2016
We purchased Unit 15, next door to our commercial kitchen, and began building work to turn it into freezer and dispatch rooms and a mezzanine storage floor.

July 2017
The Dinner Ladies was officially HACCP food safety certified.

January and March 2018
We started to deliver to Victoria and Queensland.

April 2018
We were interviewed for Mamamia’s newly launched podcast, Lady Startup.

July 2019
We transferred from polystyrene delivery boxes to recyclable lined cardboard.

August 2019
We purchased Unit 14 – next door again! – for yet more storage, dispatch and office space.

March 2020
The pandemic hit and businesses had to transform. When the first lockdown was announced, we sold out of everything within one day and had to shut down our website. But, with a herculean effort, while simultaneously dealing with all the distancing and spacing requirements, everyone pulled together and made good on all orders. Our turnover doubled overnight and the company transformed over the course of the year. We employed a Finance Director, IT Manager, Marketing Manager and Food Director among many others – Dinner Ladies now employed over 100 people!

December 2020
We purchased another unit on our site, for yet more dispatch and storage space. We were now moving products around on pallets!

March 2021
We started delivering to Adelaide.

July 2022
We launched a new website on an e-commerce platform – another huge change, with simpler ordering and improved customer experience.

August 2022
We compete on Channel 7’s My Kitchen Rules! 

September 2022
Apple publishes our case study!

November 2022
We’ll be celebrating our 15th birthday, so stay tuned for celebration announcements…

In the meantime, browse our menu here and stock up your freezer with time-saving, home-cooked dinners. We’ve been perfecting them for 15 years!

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