Startup of the Month: Fooda

by Amina Elahi
July 2, 2013

This innovative company feeds employees all over Chicago by using technology to power food delivery to workplaces. Partnering with restaurants all over the city, Fooda offers delivery from a different one each day. Best of all, employers can offer their workers lunch benefits through Fooda, or groups can order on their own.

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While working on another startup, the 1,400-person company Echo Global Logistics, which had an IPO in 2009, co-founders Orazio Buzza and Vip Sandhir were fed up with the lack of convenient, affordable lunch options. They started ordering from local restaurants on a rotating basis, a program that became so popular with Echo employees that the two grew it into a full-fledged business.

 

That was in 2007. Today, Fooda serves 60,000 customers across the city. Founded in 2011, the company has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Lightbank and angel investors, with additional funds coming from the founders themselves.

 

To learn more about Fooda, we caught up with COO Jason Stulberg. Read on for his insights.

 

When did you know you were ready to transition from an idea to a full-blown company?

JS: The program went viral within the building and employees from other companies were coming into Echo’s space to buy lunch. It became clear the need for better lunch options at work was a widespread problem for companies of all sizes. In 2011, Fooda was established with the mission to address employee engagement via company endorsed food programs.

 

Why are you tackling workplace lunches?

JS: No matter where you work, the lunch options can get stale or aren't convenient.  We provide great food from local restaurants at reasonable prices. Some solutions exist for corporate catering or a consumer ordering food at night, but no solution was focused on groups of employees during the day when they were paying for their own food.  

 

What does Fooda provide that existing food-delivery services don't?

JS: Fooda’s technology is targeted at corporations vs. consumers. Our platform was built to handle catering orders, group delivery orders, and on-site pop-up restaurants (replace traditional cafeterias). We are capable of handling all of the food needs for a corporate audience no matter who is paying the bill.   

 

How are you using technology to solve the problems surrounding workplace lunches?

JS: Our technology platform connects corporations and employees with great local restaurants – Fooda does not handle the food (cook, deliver, or serve). Our tools allow Foodizens to access restaurants outside of their work neighborhood by providing Fooda program schedules, curated menus, and a group ordering system.  

 

What are some of your greatest successes to date?

JS: We are proud of the fact that we have become a key HR initiative and provide a benefit that ranks at the top of the list in employee satisfaction surveys. Our corporate customers are some of the fastest growing companies or have won national awards for being a best place to work. Successful companies know that investing in employee engagement results in a happier, more productive workplace.

What are your goals for the rest of 2013?
JS: Last year we focused on refining our technology and products, so this year is focused on market expansion. We recently launched our programs in New York City and are opening two more new markets by the end of the year. Next year we are planning to add ten new markets.

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