There are all sorts of startups looking to make life easier, including a whole bunch trying to make ordering lunch a no-brainer. Chewse is the newest entrant into the food delivery game, as it seeks to provide office admins a new, easy way to get lunch catered. To do so, the company has raised $1 million in seed funding from a group of investors that include Chris Sacca and 500 Startups.
Unlike Postmates’ Get It Now, Seamless, or GrubHub, Chewse is focused on getting offices of workers fed, and its target decision maker is the office manager tasked with making sure that all employees are happy. In that respect, Chewse is more like Y Combinator-backed startups ZeroCater or Caviar. The idea is to match those folks with good, high-quality food that can be delivered, mostly to cure lunch-starved office workers.
Like Arram Sabeti, who founded ZeroCater after serving as office admin for Justin.tv and being tasked with ordering the team lunch every day, Chewse co-founder Tracy Lawrence has a similar story. She too was the person who had to make daily lunch orders for her office, and after hours of daily phone calls and faxes, decided there had to be a better way to do it.
So Chewse was born.
The startup seeks to set itself apart by providing a curated list of restaurants that the Chewse team has already tried. See, Lawrence is a big foodie, and knew just about all the restaurants in her hometown of Los Angeles, where Chewse got its start. And she wanted to make sure that the meals available would pass her rigorous standards before they might, you know, make others happy.
Thanks to the curated aspect, Chewse customers are more likely to place orders than if they were faced with the unlimited choices of services like Seamless or Grubhub. “Customers see and trust that it’s curated, and they’re willing to try new things without worrying that the delivery is late or the food is terrible,” Lawrence told me. It’s also about giving those clients ways to place group orders that make navigating around dietary restrictions easy and painless.
The key for Chewse, in addition to finding good food, is to find restaurants that already do catering and delivery, and that can handle the demands of serving to a full office environment. For restaurants, the pitch is more business and more regular business from corporate clients. While the restaurants handle preparation and fulfillment, Chewse helps to find the customers — office admins who were otherwise at a loss for finding something new and interesting multiple times a week.
Chewse launched last July in L.A. and has been growing rapidly in that market ever since. It’s got a pretty good customer retention rate, with about 70 percent of all users coming back to place a second order. The company has had good luck with big corporate clients like Wells Fargo and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The Chewse team is looking to expand into new markets. That’s where the funding comes in. Chewse has raised more than $1 million in seed funding from investors such as Chris Sacca, Telegraph Hill, InnoSpring, Benjamin Ling, Richard Chen, and 500 Startups. Now based in San Francisco, the three-person team hopes to hire a few more people who can bring good meals to even more office workers in L.A. and beyond.
Lawrence wasn’t ready to say where the company’s second market will be. The first market, L.A., was picked mainly because that’s where the team was at the time it launched. But now in San Francisco, the company has some interesting choices ahead. The food delivery market in SF is crowded, to say the least, with aforementioned ZeroCater and Caviar already serving up to startup and corporate clients here.
“The first market is circumstance. The second market is more of a gamble,” Lawrence told me. The team was somewhat lucky to have started in L.A., which is the second-largest corporate catering market in the U.S. behind New York City. And while the Big Apple is appealing, she said there’s also opportunity in markets like Dallas and Seattle. Wherever it goes next, Chewse expects to open for business there in the next six-to-nine months.
For hungry office workers, that’s good news.