My mother was a “secretary” in the 1970s until she retired as an office manager in 2005. I grew up listening to her work stories at the dinner table and came to understand it was often a thankless job, especially when it came to bringing in lunch for the team. When I went to university – and then to work – I was exposed to institutional food; years later as a restaurateur, I knew that the local food scene could offer more than the cafeteria.
My first job as a kid was scooping ice cream at our local baseball stadium. I put myself through college as a server and caterer before graduating and moving to New York for an investment banking job. When I worked in finance, I thought I’d never go back to serving food. But the thing about the restaurant industry is that it gets under your skin; so I quit my job and invested in a food truck. We expanded locations and I’ve seen first-hand just how slim the profit margins are for restaurants… even the successful ones… in the best of times.
So, Foodee has been a lifetime in the making for me. It connects the two worlds I’ve spent my whole career in. In 2013, I joined as CEO with the idea that Foodee could help local restaurateurs feed innovative companies seeking to attract and retain top talent. For the past seven years, we’ve facilitated over 10 million meals from more than 800 local restaurants to modern offices in 14 cities across the U.S. and Canada—and will soon offer them in more major cities.
But in 2020, restaurants took a major hit in COVID-19. We all did. Foodee included.
At the onset of the pandemic, between March and the end of May 2020, America’s restaurant industry lost $120 billion in sales. We lost so many local institutions—the worst hit were mom-and-pop restaurants that closed their doors for good. Offices stopped catering and many sent their people to work from home. Once thriving city centres went quiet.
The pandemic forced us to rethink how we operated Foodee and the future of our business – which was bleak in April 2020 – at the beginning of COVID-19. It crystallized our focus on strategic partnerships and reinforced our grassroots mission. Now, more than ever, local restaurants everywhere need support.
In order to generate the corporate catering revenue that restaurants needed, we knew that organizations would have to work hard to keep on-site employees happy and engaged. Organizations that historically provided catering would need flexibility like never before in order to navigate changing workforces, workplace schedules, and their return to office plans.
That’s why, in late 2020, we began having conversations with strategic partners who were looking for a bold new approach to workplace solutions and on July 7th, 2021, Foodee was acquired. Sodexo is a Fortune 500 company. Headquartered in Paris, it is a leading provider of food and corporate services in 64 countries worldwide. For over 60 years, the organization has provided quality food to many of the world’s leading companies, hospitals, schools, universities, government offices, military organizations, airlines and airports. But despite their size, they are largely a family-owned and run company, with similar values: improving quality of life. Simply put: there is no better partner.
Foodee’s mission to support local restaurants and their communities just got stronger. Sodexo fully supports our vision and growth targets to extend our impact into new markets and sectors. We now have the means to support even more local restaurants in more cities and countries, getting great local food into more hands—and mouths. Local restaurants set the tone for the vibrancy, creativity, and diversity of every city’s culture. They define a place and its people—and vice versa.
Local restaurants bring communities together and have the power to become pillars in local neighbourhoods, from sponsoring community activities like youth sports to helping solve food security issues. And we know that dollars spent locally stay in that community to recirculate twice through jobs, groceries, and so on. So as cities reopen, Foodee has the renewed opportunity—and responsibility—to help workplaces support local restaurants during boardroom meetings – and dinner-time stories – across North America.
Co-Founder and CEO