November 30, 2011
When I was offered my first job, the HR manager sent me home with a printed copy of the week’s gourmet lunches – as if that alone would entice me to accept his offer. ZeroCater, a Y Combinator graduate based in San Francisco, is trying to convince other companies that they should feed their employees, too.
To satisfy their hunger, companies just send a request to ZeroCater with requirements like vegetarian or peanut-free meals, and they receive a menu for approval in return. Those menus, which are continually changing, are based on popular food items and tailored to the company’s needs – what cofounder Arram Sabeti calls a “Pandora for food.” ZeroCater charges a 7% fee to companies.
The food comes from local restaurants and caterers, who also do the delivery, although 30%t hadn’t done delivery before working with ZeroCater. “Since we can send them large, regular orders, it becomes worthwhile for them,” says Sabeti, who worked with cofounder Bill Moorier on Justin.tv.
For businesses looking to please and motivate their employees, ZeroCater seems like a better option than traditional catering.
“If you’re using a lot of restaurants, it’s a huge chore to coordinate it all. If you’re just using one caterer, it gets boring after a while. We let people get the best of both worlds by having a ton of variety, but being dead simple to use,” says Sabeti.
But ZeroCater will still have to compete with other catering startups like Cater2Me, which also includes food from farmers’ markets, food trucks, and pop-up restaurants.
ZeroCater is only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, but Sabeti hints that the East Coast is next. Expanding will take more manpower to develop custom menus, but the 30% statistic above suggests that restaurants may be willing to help out.
ZeroCater has raised over $1.5 million from investors such as Paul Buccheit, Keith Rabois, SV Angel, and Yuri Milner. To hear more about ZeroCater’s future plans, stop by our Tech Cocktail San Francisco mixer tonight.
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