The Exception Magazine spoke with Rodrigo Santibanez, one of the founders of EAT Club, about how the food tech revolution will change the ways we eat lunch every day at the office.
Rodrigo Santibanez and Kevin Yang
Investors and total raised
August Capital, First Round Capital and Trinity Ventures
$16.5 million in funding
Redwood City, California
The Exception Interview
How would you describe your company and its product to someone who has never heard of it?
EAT Club is a service that companies offer to their employees to get lunch. Employees order lunch from their phones or desktops, and lunch shows up automatically at noon. Whether 20 lunches or 1,000 lunches, we fit all company sizes. We have made lunch an easy, convenient and awesome experience. Today, we are the largest business-focused, food-tech company in the U.S., serving millions of employees in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.
How did you come up with the idea for your company? How did you validate the concept early on?
The idea was inspired by a class Kevin (my cofounder) and I took at Stanford Business School while we were studying our MBAs. In that class, we studied how a Japanese company delivers thousands of bento boxes to offices in downtown Tokyo and how in India the dabbawalas deliver thousands of lunches to offices in Bombay. Neither of these two organizations use technology. We believed we could bring a similar operational model to the U.S. and make it work with technology.
What does your ideal customer look like?
Our ideal customers are forward-thinking companies that understand that offering lunch to their employees is a benefit that increases productivity, helps retain and attract top talent and encourages collaboration.
Where would you like to see your company in 5 years?
In five years, we’d like to be a billion-dollar company. Our expansion plan is ambitious. We aim to be the food service provider for all types of companies. We currently serve companies with less than 1,000 employees but we’ll eventually disrupt — and even displace — onsite cafeterias.
What excites you personally about working in food tech?
People will always eat, meaning food tech is a big (and growing) market with recurring purchases.
Do you believe your city/state supports its food tech startups?
The San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles markets are very supportive and adoptive of our service. The cities and state, however, are still trying to understand how new businesses like ours fit into their rules and regulations.
What other companies or founders do you follow for inspiration or advice?
There are too many to list in this interview but there’s no one in particular that I religiously follow. I’ve found the best advice and inspiration from mentors I have close connections with, not business celebrities I’ve never met.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of food tech CEOs?
Focus on building products that your customers love, while figuring out how to make the unit economics work. The day you run out of money, no matter how much your customers love your product, is the day your company dies. Vice versa, when you figure out a business model that works, which also has customers that love it, is the day you start walking the path to success.