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Cater2.me Brings the Street Vendor into the Office

Cater2.me Brings the Street Vendor into the Office at Meal Time

If you ever wonder what they’re eating for lunch over at Dropbox, Square or Yelp, the guy to ask is Zach Yungst, co-founder of Cater2.me.

Yungst and his co-founder, Alex Lorton, are Wharton graduates who have brought their business expertise to street food vendors, matching them up with tech startups that order in lunch most days.

The reason tech companies order food, as opposed to going out, is it saves time -- and time inside an engineering operation is extremely valuable.

Cater2.me differs from other providers we’ve covered, like ZeroCater, in several ways, including the types of vendors it offers. Rather than restaurant chefs, these are mostly the little guys, with a food stand or cart in the Mission, a truck, a pop-up café, or a stand at the Farmer’s Market.

“We go out and find them,” says Yungst, “and teach them how to cater. We specialize in the diversity of what our vendors offer, which includes just about every type of food out there.”

Among the company’s 100 or so vendors are Catheads BBQ, Soul Groove (pictured above), Radio Africa and Kitchen, El Porteño, El Huarache Loco, Sataysfied, and Jerk (Jamaican food).

Cater2.me is currently serving over 40,000 meals a month, mainly to startups, but Yungst expects to expand into other business sectors as well.

For example, as a former investment banker at a hedge fund, he knows that many whose workdays are tied to the gyrations of the stock markets are as chained to their desks as the engineers that he currently is serving.

But this is not a company bent on growth for growth’s sake, and it’s not taking on the likes of Seamless or Grubwithus at this point.

“Our goal is not to become the behemoth of vendors,” explains Yungst. “We’re not in a rush to expand. We don’t want to replace our current vendors, but to work with them to add on new concepts.”

He and his co-founder scour the food blogs and farmer’s markets to understand trends and discover new dishes. In the process, they are helping make their small-time chef’s dreams come true.

“We are their biggest client,” Yungst says. “They get 75 percent of their earnings through us.”

For their part, the vendors know that to serve their clientele they have to get each order perfect and show up on time.

“Some of them get there early and are waiting outside the door to go in when the clock strikes twelve, or whatever,“ Yungst says. “In this business you’re either on time or you’re not working with us any longer.”

Besides automating the ordering and billing processes, Cater2.me handles all the customer service issues for the vendors and the companies they serve.  A ratings/feedback system with a 5-star scale ensures that the vendors maintain a high quality of both their dishes and their hands-on service on-site.

“A 4-star rating, to us, is a red flag,” says Yungst.

Boot-strapped Cater2.me makes money by charging the vendors commissions. The chefs all are fully licensed and have access to commercial kitchens.