Sure Chicago is known for their deep-dish pizza, hot dogs and Italian beef. But the city's culinary scene offers more than what is considered Chicago staples; it's really a Foodie haven. Chicago is a city of many neighborhoods, all of which come with their own culinary traditions. It leaves the city's residents with options of diverse dishes that are often only a hop on the ‘L' away.
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So it's no surprise that there is a strong startup culture that caters to local foodies. Chicago is home to the country's first food incubator, Good Food Business Accelerator (GFBA). The accelerator just wrapped up its first six-month program and is in the process of sourcing applications for round two.
“The food space is different,” said Jim Slama, cofounder of GFBA in this recent interview. “You can't just make a product and release it to the wild hoping to attract customers. You need to get in front of the right buyers and you need to get it on the right shelves.”
Like many entrepreneurs in Chicago, Slama is encouraged by the state of ‘food capital' in the city because it attracts VCs looking to invest in food tech. The U.S. food tech industry has been growing in the last few years; in 2014 with a total of $2.4 billion of private capital invested into the ecosystem – 42% greater than 2013’s $1.7 billion, and twice as much as 2012’s influx of $1.2 billion.
Chicago-based company, GrubHub, is the nation’s leading mobile food-ordering startup that has raised over $180 million in funding. This success story has inspired many local food-focused startups. We have a list of some of the startups that are taking Chicago's foodie scene by storm:
Food Genius helps companies enhance their pricing strategies, stay current on competitors that are driving industry trends by collecting data about the food industry. Some the company's clients include Kraft, IHOP, and Arby's.
Artisanal offers users a curated collection of the very best artisan food in the Chicago area. It's an unique portal provides aggregated access to authentic, handcrafted food stuff.
gDine is an online platform that allow users to book and prepay for dinner. Guests can browse for restaurant options and view the expansive prix-fixe menus. (prix-fixe menu, optional wine or cocktail pairings, plus tax & gratuity). You can even Split-The-Check between multiple guests.
WeDeliver connects businesses to their customers by providing same-day delivery of goods, real-time tracking and customer feedback. Using a fleet of curated, on-demand drivers powered by algorithmic dispatching, the company ensures the quickest delivery of any product from any business to any customer at any time.
What better way to experience local food than to eat at a local's home? Meal Sharing connects users with a home cooked meal in people's homes. For those who love to cook, it's a great opportunity to become a host and show off your city's gems.
This app offers last minute offers in any Chicago restaurant. It also finds same day tables at your favorite local spot and offer them to you at 30% off. Great last minute deals on the go.
This online platform connects restaurants to people while at work. With a focus on the corporate crowd, Fooda provides catering services to groups of 10 to 500, and it takes care of delivery, setup and cleanup.
Kitchfix delivers healthy meals to homes, offices and gyms throughout the Chicago area. They offer the online ordering of healthy and delicious meals for people who always want to make the best choice when it comes to their food.
Radish delivers healthy, ready-to-eat meals, on demand. It doesn't only offer a weekly set menu like most delivery startups, instead it mixes and match any combination of items. They deliver in 20 minutes or less.
Need some advice on what to order? DinnDinn is an app that allows you to see dishes, drinks, or desserts look like before you order them. Once you order you can even rate the item yourself.
Scheduled to launch this month, Every Last Morsel is a community marketplace where local growers can use online record-keeping tools and sales outlets to develop their business or hobby.
Image Credit: Flickr/Mike Lavoie