A Specialty Food Provider is Thriving with Virtual Cooking Classes

Among many inspiring stories from 2020: how a farm-to-table small business in California adapted and created entirely new services and technology tools to deliver restaurant-level dining right to customers’ kitchens. A trio of culinary masters diversified their business model, successfully stayed in contact with loyal customers, and mapped out simple, scalable digital business processes.

It started with an idea for an honest truffle company. As alums of Michelin-starred restaurant The French Laundry, Jason McKinney, Sarah McKinney and Tyler Vorce have long appreciated the truffle. Earthy yet luxurious, it’s an ingredient that can elevate a dish and make it unforgettable. That’s why the trio founded Truffle Shuffle, a company with a mission to provide customers with fresh, consciously-sourced and traceable truffles, and quality small-batch truffle products. Since its founding, Truffle Shuffle has imported and sold truffles directly to restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area and across the country.

Shifting to virtual experiences

When COVID-19 forced restaurants (80% of Truffle Shuffle’s clientele) to close, the team at Truffle Shuffle decided to pivot. They launched an ongoing series of “Live Cook-Along-Experiences” with pre-portioned ingredients sent to guests (including truffles of course), and culminating in a live class focusing on classic technique in a fun, relaxed, and virtual setting. 

The team leaned on technology to make this shift. They knew they couldn’t work without electronic signature technology, accounting software and, of course, truffles. While Truffle Shuffle was already using QuickBooks for restaurant invoices and DocuSign eSignature for new hire paperwork and supplier contracts, the tools became instrumental in a different way at the height of the pandemic, digitizing its business and supporting its new, virtual model. 

Investing in digital tools to drive core business processes

Behind this new digital business model was a slew of paperwork. Leah Williams, Director of Events and Experiences at Truffle Shuffle, had to establish and maintain supplier contracts with hundreds of Whole Foods locations, and create virtual event agreements for organizations that hired Truffle Shuffle to host their corporate events. As chefs with little contract and accounting experience, DocuSign eSignature and QuickBooks made these processes simple, straightforward, and scalable. DocuSign and QuickBooks’ ease of use also ensured WIlliams didn’t have to spend a lot of time learning a new technology. To manage agreements with organizations interested in hosting cooking classes, Williams creates and individualizes contracts within DocuSign eSignature, then she sends them over to customers and receives a digital signature quickly, often within minutes. Meanwhile, Williams also uses QuickBooks to deliver contracts, finalize invoices, and process event deposits.

Truffle Shuffle’s use of both DocuSign and QuickBooks has grown exponentially over the course of the pandemic, and Williams credits the tools with helping transform the business at a pivotal moment. Truffle Shuffle has hosted 400 virtual classes to 80,000 customers across the United States since March. Needing to support more than 20 private events per week, Truffle Shuffle has grown its team from just three to 26 employees, using eSignature to onboard them. With its business booming, the company continues to rely on QuickBooks to ensure that its invoices—now all handled digitally—are sent and paid. 

Even as restaurants reopen, Truffle Shuffle plans to keep its virtual classes going, and to continue to scale its business thanks to digital tools. 

Lessons learned so far:

  • Don’t be afraid of change
  • Always be prepared to pivot and work dynamically
  • If you can, give back. For every ingredient kit sold, Truffle Shuffle donates a meal to someone in need; at the height of the shelter-in-place cooking and donating 35,000 meals to frontline healthcare workers.

To hear more of Truffle Shuffle’s story, visit their booth at QuickBooks Connect.