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Zachary Yungst grew up in Sarasota, Florida before attending Penn’s Wharton School. Before starting Cater2.me, Zach worked in investment banking at Morgan Stanley and in private equity for TPG in San Francisco.
Founded in 2010, Cater2.me connects chefs, food trucks, restaurants, and top local food vendors with offices and startups. They’re focused on making office meals exciting and the process of ordering group meals excitingly simple. Cater2.me has served over a million meals, feeding many well-known companies and startups in Silicon Valley and New York City.
MO: What inspired you to launch Cater2.me? How did you make the leap from investment banking to catering?
Zachary: When I moved to San Francisco, my company provided us with daily catered meals, and in the interest of improving my own lunch experience, I began to seek out better options. I had a short list of favorites that I’d built from my time spent at local farmers’ markets, so I started reaching out to local chefs to help them build compelling offerings to make their way onto my company’s short list. After the first series of meals got my peers talking, I knew I was on to something.
MO: Can you talk about the process of taking the Cater2.me concept and turning it into a reality? What were some of the early challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
Zachary: We knew early on that customer service was going to be a key component of success, including everything from being accessible 24/7 to proper, on-time delivery. For the latter, we were heavily reliant on our food partners, and we quickly realized that our food partners were effectively an extension of our brand. To that end, we needed to ensure that we understood the entire process, from the preparation of food to the office setup, to make sure our clients received an incredible experience. We spent much of our first few months attending orders, learning from catering pros and educating newcomers, to make sure we were providing the best client experience possible.
MO: What separates Cater2.me from more traditional catering companies?
Zachary: Cater2.me works with a hand-selected set of the best local food vendors. Our palates are more refined than our skills in the kitchen, and instead of preparing the food ourselves, we work with a team of hand selected local chefs, street food vendors, restaurants, and boutique caterers to offer one-of-a-kind specialized concepts.
MO: Can you elaborate on the process of connecting companies with their local food scene and what it’s been like to give them a better sense of the small businesses around them?
Zachary: A large part of the motivation of starting this business was connecting farmers market and street food vendors with the companies in their community so they could share their food and their stories. We work solely with local food vendors; we don’t work with chains or big-box restaurants. Our vendors are involved in their community, they buy and sell locally, they ensure that the local food ecosystem stays strong and that there will always be a place for passionate chefs to build and grow their businesses. It’s been incredibly rewarding for us to be part of that community and to help local chefs grow and flourish. For our clients, we provide the chef’s story and background with each meal, and we’ve heard numerous stories about employees seeking out Cater2.me vendors on weekends.
MO: What’s been the biggest surprise about launching and running Cater2.me so far?
Zachary: The passion with which others (employees, clients, vendors) have embraced our company and this concept has been an amazing and delightful surprise. I’ve interviewed countless people and have hired over 20 employees who are genuinely passionate about this company and our mission to create unique and curated food experiences by providing outstanding service. Our clients tell us every day how much they love not only the food and the service, but also the amazing side benefits, such as introducing them to a new restaurant they can try on their next date night. Our vendors are perhaps our biggest proponents and we can tell you quite a few stories where we were able to help vendors move from small, part-time food businesses to full-scale brick and mortar restaurants. We set out to build a successful company, but the passion of those around us has built a community far beyond what we could have imagined.
MO: Cater2.me looks like it’s really starting to gain some serious momentum. How do you plan to balance the expansion of the business while staying true to your core values and mission?
Zachary: Our core values and mission are all about focusing on outstanding service and the highest quality food. Without a strict adherence to these qualities, we wouldn’t have been able to get to where we are today, so staying true to those values is the only option to continue to grow and expand. Our business is largely driven by customer satisfaction and referrals. If we stop giving clients the service and quality they’ve come to expect, we can’t expect to grow. We never sacrifice the quality of our service purely for the sake of growth, and we believe we can continue to grow only if we continue to build clients’ trust in us through our service and quality standards.
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