• Yuppiechef, founded in 2006, has opened physical shops in Cape Town.
  • We visited two of the stores to see how the company is attempting to shake up retail.
  • We found price tickets with user ratings and a couple of other trimmings. 

The online kitchen and homeware group Yuppiechef is a veteran of South African ecommerce. It was founded twelve years ago in a lounge in Plumstead, Cape Town with only 32 products.

It has since become a household name – albeit only in a select few households which can afford a R599 wine aerator – for high-end kitchenware products.

It recently took an unexpected strategic decision: to open brick-and-mortar stores.

Two stores are currently doing business in Cape Town (at the Willowbridge shopping centre in the northern suburbs, and at the Gardens Centre in town), and a third is opening up in the Waterfront.

It is taking over the shop formerly occupied by Melissa’s, which went bankrupt earlier this year. A stark reminder of what the Yuppiechef stores are up against: an extremely tough market, which has also recently claimed Boardmans.

Still, its venture into physical retail is not without precedent. The online behemoth Amazon itself has turned its focus on physical stores in recent months, and even opened its own convenience store chain.

We shopped at the new Yuppiechef stores to see how they differ from other South African retailers.

In the Gardens Centre in Cape Town, the @home and Yuppiechef stores, right across from each other, look very similar from outside.

Inside there are some striking differences.

At first glance, the Yuppiechef store has far fewer products, but has computers with access to the online store.

A striking feature is a massive wall of knives.

Shoppers can test the coffee machines on offer.

The price tickets are unlike anything we’ve seen in a physical store. Each product has a star rating, compiled from online reviews by users. You can also get more information on the products by scanning the QR code on your phone.

yuppiechef

Shop floor staff we spoke to pride themselves on having experience in preparing food. Most worked in restaurant kitchens or the hotel industry before. One told us that they were trained in all the products before being deployed on the shop floors.

While the vast majority of the products are super expensive imports, there are a couple of local products including jaffle makers and the Wonderbag heat-retaining slow cooker (R379) on offer.

Wonderbag

The shop had a decent selection of gadgets and high-end cooking products on display, as well as some ingredients, like pasta flour.

We also liked the idea of the FOMOBOX subscription service - a box of food products delivered to your door every month (R496 per month).

Apart from the usual options, you can pay by Snapscan and Zapper. Yuppiechef developed its own software for the in-store handheld payment devices, which also display more information about products. You have a choice to have till slips emailed to you, instead of having it printed out.

Shoppers also get a Yuppiechef fridge magnet with their goods.

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